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What Really Is Champagne and Are You Drinking It, Or Its Cousin?


Champagne & Sparkling Wine

On New Year’s Eve you will likely have a little bubbly (or a lot of bubbly) in your champagne flute or glass, as you will at brunch the next morning with a little orange juice for a stellar mimosa. However, was that really champagne you are ringing in the new year with, or a close beverage cousin? There are certain rules dictating what can be called champagne and many people are shocked to learn the difference between champagne and what they are drinking.

Champagne is sparkling wine that is produced from a specific region in France called Champagne, which sounds easy enough. However, in order to be called champagne, the wine has to go through a second fermentation process to yield the carbonation we all know and love. Some vineyards go as far as to follow very detailed practices from pressing regimes to picking grapes from specific land parcels that are regulated by their appellation of the Champagne region.

Even the grapes used in the champagne must be grown in compliance with appellation regulation in specific plots within the region. What it amounts to is that although not obvious to the untrained eye, champagne is actually very different from other sparkling wines and follows a narrow set of rules to make it the real deal.

Champagne is made primarily from black Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier grapes, but also from white Chardonnay grapes. Although it has made quite a name for itself as a brunch and celebratory staple among people of many walks of life, champagne actually has a very old and rich history. Wines from this region of France were arguably started by the Romans, who were the first to plant vineyards in this part of the country.

From there, monks became interested in wines in this region and created the first sparkling wine in the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire by Benedictine Monks. Many erroneously believe that Dom Perignon created sparkling wine, but that is not true, although he was an elemental figure in perfecting the process. Champagne became extremely popular among royalty and their courts in the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries, and manufacturers ramped up production to keep in step with demand. This led to the wine’s popularity among people from various walks of life, not just the super wealthy and royal.

This New Year’s Eve, and every celebration and brunch between now and the ball drop in 2017, reach for real champagne to get the full experience of the moment and the full, perfected flavor of champagne. 


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