Champagne: How and Why We Celebrate With Bubbles
A glass of bubbles is a symbol of love and celebration. And that’s something that hasn’t changed much in nearly four centuries. However, where Champagne used to be a pure decadence that only the rich could afford, today, there is a bottle of bubbly at almost any celebration and at every price point.
And while all Champagne is sparkling wine, not all sparkling wine is Champagne. Sparkling wine is known by various names. Most commonly, we hear Prosecco (Italy), Cava (Spain), Sect (Germany), Sparkling Wine (rest of the world), and of course, Champagne (France). In fact, unless it’s produced in the Champagne region of France, it can’t be called Champagne at all.
Still, Champagne maintains its high status. For some, it is a symbol of success and victory, associated with prestigious events, like Formula 1 for instance, where the winners are given magnums of Champagne to fizz up and spray wildly at the crowds.
Less wastefully, it is sipped at weddings, engagements, christenings and bah mitzvahs where chinking glasses are an important ritual. And whatever the occasion, it’s safe to say that sparkling wine has a strong connection with celebration. Whenever there are bubbles, there is probably a party to remember.
Before you raise a glass, here’s everything you need to know about this delicious drink.
Grapes, production, and how Champagne gets its bubbles
Champagne is sparkling wine; like any wine, it’s made from grapes that are fermented twice. But we can distinguish different types of Champagne based on the different types of grapes that go into its production, as well as its dosage, pronounced doh-sahj, which actually refers to the level of sweetness added to the Champagne.
The three main grape varieties used to make Champagne are:
- Chardonnay. This type of grape adds freshness, acidity, elegance, and finesse to Champagne.
- Pinot Noir. This versatile grape brings body, texture, vigor and complexity to Champagne.
- Pinot Meunier. This dark-berried grape contributes fruitiness and floral aromas to Champagne.
The first step of Champagne production consists of the grapes being distilled. Then follows the second distillation process, where yeast and sugar are added to the wine to make the bubbles.
Champagne is usually aged for at least 15 months, in which time it’s rotated to keep the yeast moving. The final step of the process involves removing the yeast and adding liquor de dosage and more sugar.
Different types of Champagne
Champagne comes in different types and styles, depending on the sweetness level, region, grapes used and aging. Here are some varieties of sparkling wines that are sure to add to your Champagne experience:
- Champagne Brut. The term “brut” refers to dry Champagne, dry meaning less sweetness. This is the type of bubbly people tend to drink the most. There are a few varieties of Brut, including Brut Nature (extra dry) and Extra Brut (very dry).
- Extra dry. This style of wine is dry but not as dry as Brut.
- Dry. Dry champagne is referred to as somewhat dry.
- Doux (sweet). Fifty grams of sugar per litre of wine makes this style of sparkling the sweetest of them all. That said, it’s better to have with dessert than as an appetiser.
- Blanc de Blancs. This term is used to refer to a Champagne that is produced from white grapes only.
- Rosè. Popular among women because of its pink hue, this rose-coloured Champagne is made from red grapes, and it’s a lot fruitier than regular Champagne.
- Blanc de Noirs. Produced entirely from black grapes, such as Pinot Noir or Meunier, this type of sparkling wine is dry in style and has more body and fruitiness compared to the lighter and dryer Blanc de Blancs.
Given that the type of glass can affect the flavour and fizz, all sparkling wine is best served in a Champagne glass. But there are three main types of glassware, each adding a unique touch and class to the occasion. So, the question is, which type of Champagne glass is right for you?
The iconic coupe
The Champagne coupe, also known as “a saucer”, dates back to 1830s England. It is one of the oldest types of glassware for holding sparkling wine. The shallow, short-stemmed, and wide-rimmed glass is associated with vintage style and is often seen today in elaborate champagne towers.
While it was very popular in fancy restaurants in the early 20th century, it has been surpassed by the elegant flute. This is because, when it comes to the glasses’ impact on Champagne, it’s said that the coupe lets the flavour, aroma, and carbonation escape too quickly.
The elegant flute
Unlike the short-stemmed coupe, the flute is a tall, narrow glass with a medium to long stem.
A point at the bottom of the glass allows for the bubbles to congregate and then theatrically appear at the top of the glass.
Although it stems from the early 18th century, the flute glass started making a mark in the 1950s, and by the 1980s, it had completely overtaken the coupe.
The classic tulip
Featuring a narrow top, an inward curved rim and a wider bowl that helps preserve the taste, the Champagne tulip glass carries the qualities of both the flute and the coupe and is said to be the perfect glass for the ultimate champagne experience.
How to pour the perfect glass of bubbles
You may think that pouring champagne is pretty straightforward, but there are a few techniques experts use to pour the perfect glass. After all, you don’t want those bubbles spilling over.
As if the somewhat theatrical manner of popping the cork isn’t impressive enough, tilting the glass at a 45-degree angle and pouring it slowly into special glassware has a way of getting attention.
Here are some tips to remember for your next big event:
- Serve Champagne at the right temperature. Place it in the fridge to chill for 4-5 hours at 7-8 degrees Celsius.
- Never shake a bottle of Champagne. If you shake it by accident, leave it aside for an hour to prevent a Champagne explosion.
- Keep glassware close. Make sure they are clean, chilled, and polished.
Four popular champagne cocktails
While Champagne is a divine drink on its own, it can also be combined with the right ingredients to make some of the most popular Champagne cocktails.
- Bellini. A refreshing cocktail made with peach puree and Prosecco, perfect for brunch.
- Aperol Spritz. The perfect Aperol Spritz is served at Saros, with Aperol, Prosecco, soda and fresh orange. With a unique bittersweet taste, the Aperol Spritz is the perfect aperitif cocktail to sip before dinner.
- Mimosa. Traditionally made with dry sparkling wine and chilled orange juice, a mimosa cocktail is a common beverage at weddings, parties, brunch or business lunches. It’s also one of the most popular breakfast cocktails.
- French 75. Made with gin, Prosecco, lemon juice and sugar, this bubbly drink is ideal for any celebration, especially as a summer cocktail.
Ready to cheers with a glass of fizz?
We all love Champagne, and the reason it’s served during special occasions is that it matters who you drink it with. But what’s a party without delicious food to pair your glass of bubbly with?
At Saros Bar & Dining, we offer a variety of dishes that complement the taste and aroma of our Champagne selection, from our Appelation oysters and roasted duck breast to the crispy polenta chips and baked camembert.