Champagne: Cheers Mate!

ChampagneChampagne is a fancy name for Sparkling Wine. A wine with bubbles, carbonated for your pleasure, produced exclusively in the Champagne regions of France. Believe it or not, many governments restrict the user of Champagne to sparkling wines made in the Champagne region of France which is interesting, where else does that type of odd rule exist?

In the United States we have a similar rule to Europe, which enforces “Champagne” to be from France but we grandfather in older domestic sparkling wines with the name “Champagne” probably from before the rules where carved in stone. Unlike the United States, this French beverage has gone back to the days before the medieval times and have been used by churches, states and other cultures throughout time. Kings and Queens alike have enjoyed Champagne just as we do during each New Years celebration.

“The first commercial sparkling wine was produced in the Limoux area of Languedoc about 1535. Around 1700, sparkling Champagne, as we know it today, was born. There is documentary evidence that sparkling wine was first intentionally produced by English scientist and physician Christopher Merrett at least 30 years before the work of Dom Perignon who, contrary to legend and popular belief, did not invent sparkling wine” (Christopher Merrett Biographical Information. Royal Society Web site)

The French monk Dom Perignon didn’t invent the first Champagne but he helped move it to the next level by building new fermentation processes. The English started the concept of the sparkling wine and this special monk created something similar to what we drink today. It’s amazing to see some of the creations the monasteries came up with back in the day. The term Champagne describes an experience, a taste and a culture of the old country.

“Current U.S regulations require that what is defined as a semi-generic name (Champagne) shall only appear on a wine’s label if the appellation of the actual place of origin appears, in order not to mislead drinkers. Because the quality of American sparkling wines is widely recognized, many American producers of quality sparkling wine now find the term “Champagne” useless in marketing them. Moreover, several key U.S. wine regions such as those in California (Napa, Sonoma Valley, Paso Robles), Oregon, and Washington (Walla Walla) now view semi-generic labeling as harmful to their reputations.”

Although I’m not a huge fan of the sparkling beverage I can say I drink at least one glass of Champagne a year, which I can’t say about every alcoholic beverage in the market. Every New Years Eve we pop a bottle of bubbly for the special occasion and often times at any celebration or special event like a wedding. The stuff does sell well with all these events we must go to year in and year out.

“Annual sales by all producers total more than 300 million yearly bottles, roughly €4.3 billion. Roughly two-thirds of these sales are made by the large champagne houses with their grandes marques (major brands). Fifty-eight percent (58%) of total production is sold in France, and the remaining 42% exported worldwide – primarily to the UK, the U.S., and Germany. Generally, champagne producers collectively hold stock of about 1 billion bottles being matured, some three years of sales volume.” (wikipedia)

With one hundred Champagne houses and 15,000 or so smaller vine-growing producers in this region of France it goes to show you that, regardless of my interpretations of Champagne, it’s a selling product around the world. It’s one of the only beverages which seems to be a requirement at special events serving dozens of bottles per event!

Although, I do have a hankering for a Mimosa every now and again, like on Christmas morning.


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