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From Flat to Bubbly; Champagne’s History

15 February 2017

Nothing quite caps off a celebration like popping the cork on a bottle of champagne. Whether it is for an anniversary, New Year’s Eve or a big business deal, champagne has been a symbol of class and elegance since its creation. For centuries, champagne has been a popular drink among kings, queens, and nobility but most people are unaware of the history behind the celebratory beverage. Champagne is a sparkling wine that comes from the Champagne region of northeastern France. While many people refer to all sparkling wines as “champagne,” technically, only sparkling wines from that region have the legal right to be to be called champagne. Made similar to wine but a secondary fermentation process is what gives the champagne its bubbles.

Champagne History

The Romans first planted the vineyards of northeast France in the 5th century; however, it is believed it may have been even sooner. The first wines to come from this region were pale and pink Pinot noir wines that had no bubbles. The creation of champagne may be considered to have happened on accident due to the temperature conditions of the northern France. When the wines were stored in the cellars, the cold temperatures would cause the yeast cells to go dormant and stop the fermentation process. In the spring when the temperatures warmed back up the fermentation would begin again creating bubbles as a byproduct. Many of the bottles at this point in history were not suited to withstand any pressure and as a result, would burst. Even into the 17th century, Champenois, like Benedictine monk Dom Perignon, were trying to rid their wines of bubbles because they considered them to be a flaw.

The taste for the bubbly champagne wine slowly grew and became popular with the French nobility. Not knowing how to control the fermentation process or having bottles able to withstand the pressure limited the process of producing the new bubbly wine. By the 19th century, these limitations had been solved. The development of the méthode champenoise made the production of sparkling wine on a large scale extremely profitable. The popularity and profits grew until the 20th century when the Russian Revolution and Prohibition closed the Russian and American markets, and two World Wars turned the vineyards into battlefields. Since then the popularity of champagne has continued to grow to the point where the 86,500 acres of the Champagne region now produce over 200 million bottles a year but struggle to keep up with the demand. The French authorities have begun considering expanding the Champagne zone to accommodate more production.

If this brief overview of champagne has peaked your interest and given you a new appreciation for trying some for yourself, head to Toscana Divino for some of the best champagne in Miami. Try a bottle of 2004 or 2005 Dom Perignon or a 1999 Salon Blanc de Blancs. Toscana Divino has the most extensive collection of Italian wines, sparkling wines, and champagnes in Miami. To see the full list, visit https://www.toscanadivino.com/italian-wine-miami-fl/.

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