Is there a more symbolic statement of class, sophistication and elegance than the flute glass gracefully filled with Champagne? This luxury drink has held a place in our collective hearts for decades, even centuries, and has come to symbolise the good life, the high life, the life of excess and privilege. But how much do we really know about Champagne? For most of us a bottle of bubbly is a treat we indulge in when things particularly go our way or when a special occasion rolls around, but for us at the Ideal Wine Company, like many wine enthusiasts, it is a drink steeped in history and complexity.
Champagne, at its most basic, is a sparkling wine produced from the grapes of the Champagne region of France, for which the drink is named (fun fact; champagne is now a protected name in most countries and sparkling wines from outside the region cannot use it).
The Champagne region was known for its wine even before medieval times, with the Romans planting the areas first vines back in their days of supremacy. Despite popular belief that Benedictine monk Dom Perignon created sparkling wine, he in fact didn’t, although when sparkling wine was first invented in 16th Century France, he did make important contributions to the quality and production of Champagne Wine. The first sparkling Champagne was actually created by accident, leading it to be called the Devil’s Drink around the beginning of the 19th Century, although it was noticeably sweeter than today’s Champagnes. The first modern Champagne’s were created for the British in the latter half of the 19th Century.
Champagne wine becomes sparkling through a process called secondary fermentation, where after the drink has undergone the initial fermentation process, extra sugar is added so it can ferment again, carbonating it in the process. Alongside the name ‘Champagne’, it’s method of production is also highly protected. It is known as ‘Méthode Champenoise’, and even wines produced in the region that don’t fall under this method and the guidelines and restrictions set out by the ‘Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne’ (the committee of wine actors and producers in Champagne) cannot label themselves by the iconic name.
Since the establishment of Champagne as an industry, it has grown as modern types of Champagne such as ‘Brut’ and ‘Dom Perignon’ have come to dominate the market and make the drink a global symbol of prosperity and success. Popular Champagne Houses in modern times include Moet and Chandon, Mercier, Perrier-Jouet and many more, with some producing Vintage Champagne, coming to dominate a very small market.
The story of Champagne is one of high society – it has climbed the metaphoric social ladder to become the ultimate symbol of success and that’s the reason it is such a beloved drink. Long may it reign atop the wine list of the world!