Curious Small Sips #36: Champagne

Champagne being poured

Ah, Champagne, the Rolls Royce of the wine world. This radiant prestigious wine was developed from sparkling wine said to have been first discovered by Benedictine monks in 1531. The monks bottled some wine before the fermentation process had finished—a lucky mistake that resulted in a bubbly.

Champagne, the northernmost wine-growing region in France, has limestone, chalky clay soils that provide an elegant crispness to the alluring finesse of the wine. The main grapes used are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Petit Meslier, Arbane and Voltis are also allowed, but their use is exceptionally rare.

Champagne is made by fermenting wine once, and then adding yeast and sugar during the bottling process. This causes carbonation (second fermentation), giving the luminous fine bubbles and, of course, bottle pop.

Champagne needs a minimum of 15 months of ageing in the bottle, where the yeast (lees) is in contact with the wine. During this time, the bottles are laid upside down to clarify the sparkling wine of sediment. The sediment is removed at a later stage, called ‘disgorging’, and wine and sugar are added to top-up the bottles, which are then corked.

Despite its high-society associations, champers pairs particularly well with fish and chips because it is light in body and high in acidity.

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