Sparkling champagne in crystal flutes – a sign of celebration! Take a tour of various champagne trivia – from choosing champagne bottles to tips on selecting champagne glasses and serving them right. Champagne punch and champagne cocktails are popular at New Year parties, festive parties and celebrations. Find out what makes this sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France so special.
Champagne is a specialty sparkling white wine made with grapes from the vineyards of the Champagne region – the region around Reims, Marne and Cote de Blancs. Other examples of sparkling wine from neighboring regions are:
- Sekt from Germany
- Spumante from Italy
- Vin Moussex from other French areas
French champagne is a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir or pinot blanc grapes. Some of the best French champagnes are Moët & Chandon's Dom Perignon and Louis Roederer's Cristal. Dom Perignon champagne owes it name to the Benedictine monk Pierre Pérignon. He was instrumental in overseeing the process of wine making in the Abby of Hautervillers. Sparkling wine was a result of the blending of champagne and the use of thicker bottles and better corks. Thus was born Champagne – a connoisseur’s delight, a white wine with bubbles that soon won the patronage of French and English royalty. Champagne making then developed into a fine art, one that was taken over by champagne merchants.
More white grapes make for lighter champagne while red grapes give rise to full-bodied champagne. French champagne that is fermented in wooden casks possesses a full-bodied flavor as compared to those that have been fermented in stainless steel casks. Pink champagne owes its color to the fact that the pressings are allowed to stay on the skins longer than normal thereby allowing the pigment to color the wine. For lighter champagne, opt for a Perrier-Jouët or Taittinger. For those who prefer medium-bodied champagne, there is Moët & Chandon, Pol Roger, Pommery, Deutz and Mumm. Bollinger, Gosset, Louis Roederer and Vueve Clicquot are full-bodied French champagnes. French champagne is blended across several years. When selecting a bottle of champagne, what must you look for?
- The marque is the brand of champagne created by a champagne house. If you have been savoring champagne for years, you will learn to tell the difference between different marques.
- The vintage refers to the year in which the grapes were harvested. Nearly 80% of the grapes used in champagne must be harvested in the year of its vintage. Grapes from different years lend a unique flavor to the champagne.
- Champagne bottles come in different sizes. A half-bottle comes to a little more than 2 glasses of champagne.
- The dryness of champagne indicates the amount of sugar that it contains. Grapes for champagne are usually harvested before they are fully ripe. Consequently their sugar content is rather low.
- Some wine makers add more sugar to make the champagne taste sweeter. A guide to varying levels of dryness:
Doux – sweet
Demi – fairly sweet
Sec – mild sweet
Extra Dry – slightly dry
Brut – dry
Brut Sauvage – Extremely dry
- Cost of champagne bottles can range from around $35 - $50 to even hundreds of dollars depending on the vintage.
While purists would scorn at mixing champagne with anything else, champagne cocktails are popular at parties and weddings. You can blend champagne with sugar cubes soaked in Angostura bitters. Add a twist with a lemon swirl or orange rind. Blend together a delicious champagne punch with Sauterne wine, ginger ale and champagne. Get your champagne punch together in a chilled bowl. Celebrations call for a champagne punch. You can whip up a wonderful champagne punch with chilled maraschino liquor, cognac and orange juice. Add chilled champagne while serving and garnish with sliced oranges and ice molds of pineapple juice. Another recipe for champagne punch is to blend cranberry juice, pink lemonade and lime juice with soda and champagne. Use chopped cranberries and fresh mint leaves for garnish. Add a special touch to your champagne punch with chilled Chablis and Crème de Cassis.
Champagne punch recipe
1 bottle champagne
Chopped cherries, raspberries, strawberries, oranges
Chill the liquids and combine in a large bowl so that the flavors blend. Garnish with fruits. Alternatively, you can combine just champagne with cranberry cocktail juice and fresh orange juice.
Champagne glasses are long –stemmed flutes made of crystal that are specially designed to direct the flow of bubbles to the crown. The shape of the champagne glasses is designed to enhance your enjoyment of the sparkling wine. Never chill the champagne glasses. Serve the champagne at about 7°C. Pour out only about 2/3 of the champagne flutes. Hold your champagne flute by the stem so the champagne stays cool. Crystal is popular for champagne glasses since it is rougher than ordinary glass and will stimulate more bubbles. Waterford crystal champagne flutes are a wonderful gift.
Pick them up in thick diamond-cut styles. Champagne flutes come in petal cut styles or with a golden halo around the rim. You can select champagne flutes with stylized motifs. Another champagne glass that was in vogue in earlier times is the coupe – a wider glass that allowed the bubbles to burst into your face. Never clean your champagne glasses with soap, as it will play havoc with the taste and the bubbles.