When the time comes to charge your glass, and celebrate a special occasion – or you’re just a gangster rapper who wants to flash your cash in the club – it’s tradition to reach for a bottle of Champagne.
A sparkling wine invented in the Champagne region of France, the popular legend is Dom Perignon created the first example, but the truth is local Benedictine Monks had been making the stuff for centuries.
Together, these holy men discovered that if they bottled their wine before it’d finished fermenting – and added a little extra sugar to create more bubbles – they had something special on their hands.
“Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!” exclaimed Perignon, supposedly after popping the cork on a bottle for the first time. Of course, regular old wine had been around for centuries, but this new bright and bubbly elixir took the experience of drinking to another level.
“Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!” exclaimed Perignon, supposedly after tasting sparkling wine for the first time.
So unique, in fact, that the word Champagne has been legally reserved for sparking wine produced in the region since 1891. Not only do the grapes have to be grown and produced locally, but the makers have to adhere to a long list of rules too, from pruning their vines a special way to how long they have to wait until it’s bottled.
Just like Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or Cognac, Champagne has become a luxury brand name, anchored to a specific place in the world, that helps people know they’re getting the real deal. Made anywhere else, it’s just sparkling wine – no doubt some of it tastier and more refined than the famous French labels, but without the official title, let’s be honest, it doesn’t have the same vibe.
It would be easy to think it’s all marketing hype, but with a drink like Champagne, where the taste is a direct result of the earth and weather where it’s created – the “terrior” if you want to use the proper term – there’s no arguing that only sparkling wine grown and produced in the north east of France can own the flavour.
Drinking a glass of real Champagne is more than just a nice way to get tipsy at a wedding. Like eating pasta in Italy, ramen noodles in Japan, or a hamburger in America, it’s a link to traditions and lands far away.
Image: Birthplace of bubbly hangovers everywhere, a vineyard near Baroville, in the Champagne region of France.