On New Year’s Eve people all over the world celebrate by popping the cork on a bottle of “bubbly” to say goodbye to the past year and hello to the new year. These oftentimes loud and boisterous celebrations continue far into the next few weeks blending New Year with Carnival, Mardi Gras, Super Bowl, and even Valentine’s Day. In fact, many celebrations throughout the year find Champagne at the center of the occasion.
Historically Champagne has been associated with royalty and aristocracy – served at parties in the royal courts. Today, any celebratory occasion – wedding, birth, baptism – as well as christening a ship, winning a race or game, or wooing the love of your life demands that we bring out the festive wine. On some occasions the sparkling bubbles are never consumed by humans but rather shaken, exploded, smashed or doused according to the event being celebrated.
There is a reason why all Champagne is not called by its name. We may say “Bring out the Champagne” but we will merely be holding a bottle of sparkling wine. And why is that? The term Champagne is exclusively reserved for sparkling wines produced in the Champagne Region of France. Rules and regulations apply to everything from the way the grape is pruned to the method of turning the bottle during the aging process. Therefore regions outside of the “approved area” use the term Champagne more as a generic label for their sparkling wine.
As consumers, we love Champagne. We are attracted to the bubbles because they resemble tiny flickers of light in our glass. We love the way Champagne will tickle our nose and give us an memorable sensation as it goes down. Plus, whether we admit it or not, we feel royal, maybe a bit kingly, as we hold the tall-fluted glass.
Fun Facts About Champagne
- There are approximately 49 million bubbles in a bottle of Champagne. The bubbles are formed during the second fermentation in the bottle that you will eventually bring home to open and enjoy.
- The pressure inside a bottle of Champagne is about 90 pounds per square inch or three times the pressure inside a car tire (whichever is easiest to understand).
- A Champagne cork leaves the bottle at a velocity of approximately 40 miles per hour but can pop out as fast as 100 miles per hour.
- The longest Champagne cork flight was 177 feet, 9 inches set in New York in 1988.
- The type of glass used to serve Champagne has a huge impact on the bubbles. Chilled glasses will weaken the bubbles making them go away faster. Tall, tulip-shaped glasses, like the ones we typically use, will trap the aromas at the top of the glass and protect the bubbles for a longer period of time.
- Unlike wine, Champagne should not be swirled before enjoying. Swirling Champagne makes the bubbles disappear.
- Bubbles form in the glass because of small flecks of dust particles from the drying cloth or small impurities in the glass. Some manufacturers of Champagne glasses will etch scratches inside the glass to help produce more bubbles.
- Brut is the driest of all Champagnes. Extra Dry usually means extra sweet. Demi-sec means the Champagne is medium-sweet. And if all this is not confusing enough, Sec in French means lacking sugar, but if a Champagne label says “Sec”, it is sweet.
- James Bond may like his martinis shaken, not stirred, but he also loves a good glass of Champagne, which has appeared in his films over 35 times.
- For a really fun bar trick, a raisin dropped in a glass of Champagne will continually circulate from the bottom of the glass to the top and back again.
I probably got my love of Champagne after all the years of watching The Lawrence Welk Show with my parents. His “Champagne Music” and the bubble machine seemed to create a sense of elegance and richness to the drinking of Champagne. Texas wineries realize the importance Champagne plays in events they host at their facilities. Many make great Texas Sparkling Wine that can be enjoyed at any occasion. I subscribe to the Mark Twain philosophy as it relates to enjoying Champagne. He said, “Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.”
Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association