It started with a wedding. I was 19 and while I may have had champagne before, I’d never had good champagne. I was passed a flute for the toasts and when I sipped that drink, my whole world changed. It was class, girliness, summertime and love all distilled into a bubbly liquid. I knew then and there what my favorite drink was. To this day, I’ll take a glass of champagne over anything else. Champagne cocktails are my kryptonite.
What makes champagne so delightful, though? Certainly there are other wines and beers equally well crafted, and there’s a whole world of liquor to explore. I’d say it’s the carbonation. As someone who loves soda and sparkling water, the ability to drink something infused with carbonation (and not muddied with several fingers of whiskey or some other spirit) and still seem super classy is wildly appealing to me. I try to present myself as a lady to the world, and all the classic media images present ladies as the ones who drink champagne.
The exclusivity and history of champagne are also fascinating to me. Did you know that there were riots over the production of champagne in 1910-11? There were. It was a bad season for the grape growers, and champagne vintners were accused of using grapes grown outside the region. These riots were what caused the French government to create legal boundaries for the champagne region.
The process of making traditional champagne, or méthode traditionnelle wines (outside the legal champagne region) is very labor intensive. It involves secondary fermentation of the wine in-bottle and storing the bottles on a board that keeps the neck pointed downward. The bottles are then turned ever so slightly each day to the right or left. This is called riddling. This method creates complex, delicious sparkling wine. It’s also the most expensive because of the labor intensity. Riddling used to be done by hand, but is now usually done by a piece of machinery called gyropalette, but the care in the fermentation process is what you’re really paying for.
The Charmat method is used in making sparkling wines like Prosecco. Instead of the secondary fermentation occurring in the bottle, it is done in a vat and then transferred into a bottle. I’m all about Prosecco, so I certainly can’t hate on this method. It’s only drawback is that the flavors aren’t quite as complex as they are in traditionally made champagne.
There’s also the quick-and-dirty method of creating the bubbles in sparkling wine. Take your wine, then inject it with carbon dioxide. The bubbles disperse quickly once your bottle is open, but you don’t pay for the labor intensity of the traditional or Charmat methods. Still, I tend to avoid this bottom-shelf variety.
I think the most important thing to remember here is that champagne is not just a wine. It’s the fanciest of wines. The kind that comes in a delicate glass and suits my feminine airs. I’ve done a little bit of research, so I can sound like a smart person when talking about the difference between Cava (méthode traditionnelle) and Asti (Charmat). Really, though, I just think the bubbles are yummy.
Minnie hopes to one day receive an engagement ring in a glass of champagne.