Champagne- A taste of the stars.
“Come quickly I’m tasting the stars”, said Dom Perignon, the father of champagne, as he tasted the first champagne. Champagnes are associated with celebrations & parties, when we think of champagne we picture a champagne flute, i.e. a long-stemmed glass with a pale yellow effervescent drink in it. Champagne is a sparkling wine made of grapes like pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot meunier. The term champagne is associated with the Champagne region which lies on the northeast of France. Sparkling wines which belong only to this region can be known as Champagne. The Comité Champagne (Comité Interprofessional du Vin de Champagne) is the trade organization established by statute to manage the common interests of growers (‘vignerons’) and Champagne Houses (négociants/producteurs’). Champagne is made by fermenting the grapes twice, once in a wooden barrel and second time in the bottle itself. The method used in its production is known as Methode Champegnoise. It takes almost a time period of three to seven years to produce a bottle of champagne. At first, grapes are crushed after harvest, the crushed grapes are known as must. They must contain wine yeasts, it is then transferred to the fermentation tank which can either be wooden or stainless steel. During the fermentation, yeast reacts with sugar and as a by-product carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol is given off. After the first fermentation of grapes fining & filtration is done which is a process to clear the fine particles & the dead yeast cells. Later blending is done in which, wines from different vineyards of the Champagne regions are blended with the clear wine to adjust the acidity & flavours. The secondary fermentation is done in the bottle by adding liqueur de tirage to it, which is a mixture of cane sugar & yeast in old wine. The bottles are then stacked on top of one another in racks with their neck tilted slightly downward inside a cellar. They are given a slight shake in every three days for six weeks, by a specialist called remueur. After every shake, the bottle is placed at a higher angle, until it stands vertical.
It is left in that position for one to several years. Once all the particles settle on the cork, the neck of the bottle is dipped in a freezing brine solution due to which the sediments on the cork freeze along with a small amount of wine, the cap is then removed and the pressure inside expels the cork along with the sediments. The small amount of Champagne lost in this process is replenished with similar wine & cane sugar. Then the bottle is corked again, the bottle is given a shake again for the even distribution of dosage. Then it is rested for four to six months before it’s packaged. Champagnes are extravagant, they can go as high as $2.07 million. Marilyn Monroe once took a bath in a tub full of champagne. It took 350 bottles to fill up the tub. Early champagne manufacturers came down to their cellars to find exploded bottles or corks popped. They attributed this to spiritual beings. This caused many champagne-makers to wear iron helmets to prevent injury. The pressure in the bottle led it to be called the “Devil’s Wine”(le vin du Diable). “Sabrage” is a term for opening a champagne bottle with a sabre. It’s only done in certain ceremonial occasions and the wielder uses the blunt side of the sword.
About the Author Rahul Bist Aspiring Gourmet Chef- IHM Chennai. He loves cooking, traveling and watching shows.