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Ask the Expert

Champagne: Why Those Tiny Bubbles Are Magical

By Jun 10, 2011May 16th, 201213 Comments

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Ever enjoy a glass of champagne and think, Wow! Now this is something really wonderful! The beauty of those tiny little bubbles in your champagne flute is that they come from an incredibly wonderful part of the world. Read more from Gianna, our travel editor, as she recaps her travels in the Champagne region of France, and learn why a glass of champagne always gives us a reason to celebrate…

champagne

Popping the cork of a Champagne bottle, or any other sparkling wine for that matter, triggers an almost instantaneous feeling of celebration. The release of the pressure stored in the bottle simultaneously releases the previously contained emotion in the room. Cue the shouts of “surprise” or “congratulations” as the lights come on. Roll the “We Are Family” song at the wedding. Enter the stream of smiles followed by the clinking of raised glasses. For Champagne to play a part in these moments, time and fermentation must run their course. Champagne undergoes a lengthy production process that, like most other French practices, comes from centuries of tradition and has been adapted for other sparkling wines. So, before the bubbles begin rising and the toasts are made, celebrate the past and production found in the Champagne bottle that still graces parties, receptions, and ceremonies of today.

Originating from its namesake region, Champagne comes from northern France where the climate is much colder. The legendary monk Dom Pérignon is considered to have developed the wine over 300 years ago; however, he cannot be given complete credit for the beverage. Dom Pérignon is only one contributor in a procession of many others who left behind their stamp on the bottle. After all of these vinters passed through and instituted refinements to the production method, the final technique that emerged was termed Champenoise.

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Champenoise is distinguished by two phases of fermentation. The grapes, generally of either a Pinot Noir or Chardonnay variety, are first gently crushed in order to prevent an overly tannic wine. After, the grapes move into the first stage of fermentation. Settled in large, sealed vats, the grapes naturally yield carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide trapped in the vats causes the sparkling effect on the wine. Alternatively, when still wines reach this period of fermentation, vats remain open so that the carbon dioxide is able to escape.

With the captured carbon dioxide, the pressed grapes transition into the second stage of fermentation. Additional sugar and yeast is often added at this point in time to increase the building pressure. The second fermentation takes place in the individual Champagne bottles. Once the liquid and accompanying carbon dioxide are divided among the bottles, the second fermentation facilitates extended contact with the sediment, thereby enriching the ultimate taste and aroma of Champagne.

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When Champagne emerges in its final form after a two to three year production process, there are certain characteristics that set it apart. In the bottle, the enclosed pressure will be higher than other comparable sparkling wines. In the glass, the bubbles will be small and abundant. After being poured, it is important that the bubbles continue rising in the Champagne flute for some time–it’s a sign of quality. On the palate, there will be a distinct sour taste that leaves a soft impression in the mouth. Combining these aspects of Champagne in a single sip genuinely gives us something to celebrate.

As soon as a bottle with its gold paper-wrapped top appears, the mood in the room changes. People readily anticipate the imminent moment to explode once the shot, or in this case the cork, is fired. The initial inclination may be to take a sip as soon as it begins fizzing in the glass, but I would say to stop and take a minute. Watch for the small, rising bubbles and celebrate the wine that sparkles in your flute.

About Francesca

Francesca has an extensive background in content marketing, public relations, and social outreach. She oversees all Operations at Sway Group, including our robust metrics capabilities. Prior to joining the online world, Francesca oversaw viticulture and oenology at various wineries in both California and Italy, and managed regulatory affairs and facility approvals at the biotech company, Genentech. Francesca has been featured on CBS Sacramento and Food Blogger Pro’s podcast. She has also hosted an AMA webinar and spoken at Social Media World.

13 Comments

  • Dani says:

    Champagne is perfect to make any occasion a celebration! I enjoyed touring the champagne houses, visiting the caves and taste testing various brands, on a trip to Epernay, France a few years ago.

  • Lady Jennie says:

    Great post and I learned a few things.

    Cheers!

  • Michelle says:

    Who doesn’t love champagne 🙂 I would love to visit France someday & tour a vineyard – that would be amazing, & fun!

  • PatriciaD says:

    Oh, man, love the photos especially the barrels and wagons…awesome.

  • LBDDiaries says:

    This was a wonderful article! Now I want to visit France and taste it right there!!

  • Queen Mum says:

    Thank you for the education on champagne. I’m leaving for France in 4 days. First stop Paris for a cooking class. Next stop Tuscany for a wedding, where i’m sure the champagne will be flowing.

    xoxo

  • Christine says:

    I will defintely take a moment to appreciate next time! You’ve encouraged me to go buy a bottle of bubbly for our upcoming festivities: Husband’s bday Monday, our wedding anniversary Tuesday, my bday Wednesday! Cheers!

  • Lizzie says:

    I love proper champagne, and I’d love to visit that region 🙂

  • Jaclyn says:

    your pictures are so lovely! it makes me want to go back to France!!

  • Sarah says:

    This makes me want a glass. Whenever my sister and I are togerther (and no one is pregnant) we have a nice bottle.

    I visited Reims on my tour of Europe after college. It was great to tour the caves and see where the magic happens.

  • Trish says:

    I love champagne! And enjoying drinking whenever I can – not just special occasions. Many years ago a man I dated turned me onto Veuve Clicquot and now that is (just about) the ONLY champagne I will drink. Cheers!

  • Wonderful post for a beverage worthy of being coiffed in the celebratory moments of one’s life!

    Would love to do a champagne tasting party with my close friends, and compare a less costly and more costly bottle!