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Champagne - It's Not Just for New Year's Eve

Updated on October 31, 2012
Champagne in a Tulip Glass
Champagne in a Tulip Glass
Champagne in a Flute Glass
Champagne in a Flute Glass
Chilling Champagne
Chilling Champagne
A Typical Champagne Cork
A Typical Champagne Cork
Pinot Noir Grapes
Pinot Noir Grapes
Pinot Meunier Grapes
Pinot Meunier Grapes
Pinot Cardonnay Grapes
Pinot Cardonnay Grapes
Turning Each Wine Bottle By Hand
Turning Each Wine Bottle By Hand

Champagne - Its Not Just for New Years Eve

Cast your vote for Champagne

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Champagne – It’s Not Just For New Year’s Eve

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Have you ever noticed how all of the advertisements for champagne start appearing on television just before Christmas and New Year’s Eve? That’s because that is the time period when the sale of champagne is the highest. The rest of the year, we hardly ever think about champagne unless it is someone’s birthday or anniversary.

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While I don’t advocate drinking champagne with your meal, it is the perfect way to start a meal when served with the appetizers. In case you haven’t noticed, champagne goes extremely well with such diverse appetizers as salty caviar, rich fois gras, spicy shrimp cocktail, raw oysters or oysters Rockefeller and even with various salads.

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The next time you eat out at a nice restaurant, consider starting the evening with a bottle of champagne. Another idea to consider is to have a champagne and appetizer tasting instead of a formal dinner party.

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Prepare a number of both cold and hot appetizers and serve them as separate courses along with a different champagne for each course. Now that I have you considering the possibilities, you may want to learn a little more about champagne so that you know which one to select.

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Strictly speaking, champagne can only be produced in a very specific region of France and it can only be made from certain grape varieties, primarily Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Other sparkling wine producing regions in France use the name cremant. By international agreement, other countries in Europe use other names for their sparkling wines too. Germany uses sekt, Italy uses spumanti, and Spain uses cava for example. In the United States, we don’t honor this agreement, but only a very few wineries use the designation champagne as long as it is clearly stated on the label where they are produced. 

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If you can afford them, the French champagnes are the best but they are very expensive. Non vintage French champagne can run from about $30.00 to $50.00 a bottle. One of my favorites is Veuve Clicquot, partially because that is what we drank when I first met my wife on New Year’s Eve. It is rather delicate, but it has plenty of small bubbles and a fine finish.

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There are many other brands available for you to try. Only in the best years, the French produce vintage champagnes, which state the year that the grapes were grown on their labels. These can run from $40.00 a bottle to over $200.00 for special editions. My personal Favorite is Louis Roederer Crystal Brut but I can no longer afford to drink it.

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The closest thing to French champagne which is more affordable, are the sparkling wines from California and the best of these are made from the same grapes as the French champagnes and they are also fermented in the bottle Korbel was one of the first winemakers in California to make sparkling wines similar to those made in France. Korbel began making sparkling wines in California in the 1880’s according to the methode champenoise using Riesling, Chasselas, Muscatel and Traminer grapes.

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Today, most California sparkling wine makers use pretty much the same grape varieties that are used in France. However, low cost producers like Gallo, André and Cook use the bulk (Charmat ) fermentation process. Korbel still makes a reliable sparkling wine which often goes on sale for as low as $10 a bottle.

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Two other California sparkling wine producers deserve special note; Schramsberg, which began producing wines by the French method using Chardonnay grapes in 1965 and Iron Horse which did much the same thing in 1980. Both vineyards produce good quality sparkling wines, but they are a little pricey – almost as expensive as the French champagnes.

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The best bargains in California sparkling wines today are probably the French transplants. French champagne houses such as Roederer, Chandon, Taittinger, Mumms and Piper now produce sparkling wine in California using the same grape varieties and method that is used in France. Surprisingly, these wines often sell from $15 to $25 per bottle and are of very high quality.

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One last item that needs to be covered is the level of sweetness or residual sugar for champagnes. When champagne is made the wine is fermented and bottled much as you would for any white wine. If the wine is labeled as Blanc de Blanc it means that only Chardonnay grapes were used. If it is labeled Blanc de Noir, then Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (red wine grapes) were used.

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Then to produce the bubbles, a dose of wine and sugar is added to ferment in the bottles which are sealed. How sweet the final wine will be is determined by how much sugar is added. The level of residual sugar in the wine is indicated on the label as Brut, Extra Dry, Demi-Sec, Doux, etc. which is explained in the following table. Most people tend to prefer Brut champagne, but novice drinkers may prefer the sweeter versions.

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From now on our new motto will be "Champagne – It’s not just for breakfast anymore".

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TERMS USED TO INDICATE SWEETNESS IN SPARKLING WINES

RATING
SUGAR CONTENT (GRAMS PER LITRE)
Brut Nature
0-3
Extra Brut
0-6
Brut
0-12
Extra Dry
12-17
Dry
17-32
Demi-Sec
32-50
Doux
50+
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How Champagne is Made

Reims, France and the Champagne District

The Champagne District
The Champagne District
A Champagne Vineyard
A Champagne Vineyard
Louis Roederer Champagne Cellar
Louis Roederer Champagne Cellar
Hotel de ville in Reims
Hotel de ville in Reims
Cathederal at Reims
Cathederal at Reims

Reims, France - In the heart of the Champagne district

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    • rjsadowski profile image
      Author

      rjsadowski 5 years ago

      Why not afternoon champagne? A great idea.

    • profile image

      Sueswan 5 years ago

      Hi rjsadowski

      There is afternoon tea so why not afternoon champagne?

      Voted up and awesome.

      Cheers!

      Have a good weekend,

    • rjsadowski profile image
      Author

      rjsadowski 5 years ago

      Most of the time I prefer non carbonated wine, but there are some foods like caviar and spicey appetizers that just call out for champagne. Thanks for your comments.

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 5 years ago from Southern Nevada

      I prefer a good glass of wine over champagne. Great photos to enjoy.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 5 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Great hub, loved the pictures. Love champagne and appetizers hot or cold. This gets bookmarked.

    • profile image

      Phoebe Pike 5 years ago

      Very informative hub. I enjoyed reading it. ^_^