Known as the drink of kings, the champagne has presence guaranteed in celebratory moments. With a generally golden color and a fantastic flavor, this delicious drink is sold on a large scale, corresponding to 10% of the sparkling wines produced in the world.
Its history is considered recent, approximately 400 years, compared to that of wine, more than 8 thousand years of history. Its first record is from 1531, in the south of France, in an abbey of Benedictine monks.
To a sparkling wine be considered champagne, the drink must follow a series of protocols. Follow the reading and discover the secrets behind this tasty and refreshing drink.
Origin Of The Champagne
The actual date of the creation of sparkling wines is uncertain, but through records and histories, it is possible to know when this drink became popular and began to be produced for sale.
It can be said that sparkling wine was created accidentally, and it became officially accepted by society took a while. At the time, the French believed that bubbles in wine were a sign of poor quality in the manufacturing process.
The standard process of winemaking at the time consisted of picking selected grapes, placing them in barrels made of oak wood, and kneading them to extract the most from the grapes. Afterward, the juice of the grapes remained there to undergo fermentation through yeasts.
Yeasts, in turn, feed on the natural sugar of the grapes, transforming it into alcohol and carbon dioxide (CO2). Carbon dioxide is responsible for creating air bubbles inside the drink. But as the grapes weren’t so sweet, the fermentation process didn’t generate as much alcohol and only a tiny amount of CO2. The little carbon dioxide that was generated escaped with time.
The Beginning Of Everything
Knowing how wines were made, you can better understand how champagne was accidentally created. Around 1600, there was an abbey of Benedictine monks in a city located in the south of France, where a type of wine, the Gris, was produced.
At that time, the French took the barrels of wine to be bottled in England. During the voyage, with the movement of the ships and with the temperature changes, a second involuntary fermentation of the wines occurred, generating tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide.
Realizing this, the French thought that the drink spoiled during travel and reduced the quality of the wines. But the English liked this effervescent effect, which was an incentive for the French to continue producing bubbly wines, even if they didn’t like it.
The English did not want to depend on French production and realized that the process involved a second fermentation of the wine. So, they tried to imitate the whole process using more sugar in the grape must made the yeasts generate more carbon dioxide.
In 1662, an English scientist named Christopher Merret came to describe the process of adding sugar in the wort as Second Controlled Fermentation, being the first to document this technique of producing sparkling wines.
Dom Pierre Perignon
In 1668, the abbey of Hautvillers, located south of the city of Reims in the Champagne region of France, was taken over by the monk Dom Pierre Pérignon. He was very knowledgeable about wine production, so he made several changes to the traditional production process at the time.
Among these changes, the main ones were the creation of the method known as Champenoise, the establishment of new rules for harvesting the grapes, and the improvement of the technique known as Assemblage. Furthermore, only the best grapes could be used for wine production.
These ideas came to Dom Perignon when he realized that stored wine bottles exploded without explanation after winter. This was due to the sudden changes in temperature in the Champagne region, whose winter was harsh.
During winter, the stored beverages interrupted their fermentation process due to low temperatures. However, upon reaching the spring, fermentation restarted and set as a second fermentation of the drink, which created a tremendous pressure inside the bottle due to the high concentration of CO2.
The Contribution Of The Kings
In 1687, Dom Pérignon officially established the Champenoise method, which is an improved and optimized version of the Controlled Second Fermentation method described by Christopher Merret.
In addition, Dom Pérignon had the idea of using cork stoppers held together by a wire to seal the bottles of sparkling wine instead of metal caps, thus preventing the pressure of the liquid from throwing them out.
At this time, King Louis XIV of France tried and approved the drink produced by Dom Pérignon. That’s when sparkling wines from the Champagne region started to become popular.
And 14 years after the death of Dom Pierre Pérignon, a production company called “Ruinart” decided to use this s techniques and produce sparkling wines in 1729. However, the company Ruinart be the first producer exclusive to the champagne at the time, not selling many bottles.
This scenario was improved with the help of King Louis XV, who was very fond of this type of bubbly wine and insisted on serving it at the Palace of Versailles.
But it wasn’t until the 19th century that champagne began to gain popularity, thanks to Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin, wife of François Clicquot. They owned a textile factory and an unsuccessful wine producer.
In 1805, François Clicquot died, just six years after the marriage. So Barbe-Nicole used the inheritance to take over the winery’s business and make it prosper. And that’s what happened! It bet on producing extremely sweet wines, with approximately 140 grams of sugar per liter of must.
But she knew that Russians loved sweet wine. But at the time, Russia was at war with France, which Napoleon Bonaparte controlled. So, Barbe Nicole had the idea to produce thousands of bottles and stock all in Amsterdam to facilitate transport to Russia.
Once its production arrived in Russia, success was guaranteed. And, shortly after that, her brand became the most valuable in the world of sparkling wine, being named producer Velve Clicquot, which means Widow Clicquot.
How Champagne is Prepared?
There are several protocols to be followed so that drinks can receive the name “champagne.” The harvest must be done by hand. They must be respected the specific types of grapes that can be used, and more critical: must have been produced in the city of Champagne.
For the preparation of authentic champagne, the following steps must be followed:
1st STAGE – ASSEMBLY
Assemblage is a method in which winemakers mix different types of wines to generate one with a unique taste. In the case of champagne, are blend the grapes from other vintages, species of vines, then s crop and even from different locations. But all the grapes need to be part of the Champagne region.
All this is done to achieve a unique and incomparable taste. In the case of champagne, the grapes more used are Chardonnay, Pinot noir, and Pinot Meunier. Chardonnay, used to a greater extent, is a white grape. The others are red grapes.
2nd STAGE – CHAMPENOISE
Also known as the Traditional Method, the method created by Dom Pérignon consists of fermenting the must, which is the juice of fresh grapes, twice. The first fermentation is carried out in wooden or stainless steel or concrete tanks, and the second is carried out in bottles stored in cellars.
In the second fermentation, the drink acquires carbon dioxide after being bottled. The bottling process also producers using Liqueur of Tirage (or wine dosing).
- Fermentation: fermentation occurs through the addition of yeasts, which can either be found in nature or produced in the laboratory, which are the most used because they are more effective.
- Bottling: this process is added Liqueur of Tirage, which is a mixture of wine, sugar ( about 24 grams per liter), and yeast (to perform the second fermentation).
Then close the bottles with metal lids and leave them resting in the cellar positioned upside down for months or even years. Thus, the sediments, called blur too, if concentered in the gargle to facilitate the withdrawal.
3rd STAGE – REMUAGE
This step is carried out during the second fermentation process inside the bottle. It consists of rotating the bottles at an angle of 90º so that the sediments that are stuck to the walls of the bottles are released and go to the neck. This process is done regularly.
4th STAGE – DEGORGY
The disgorgement process is done to remove the sediment from the bottle and make it ready for commercialization. First, the neck is frozen, and when removing the cap, the pressure expels the sludge.
After that, a little liquor (wine + sugar) is added, but sulfur dioxide is used instead of yeast. The amount of sugar in this liqueur will determine whether the champagne will be brut, dry, or demi-dry.
Finally, the bottle is closed with a unique cork stopper and wire and is ready to be sold or stored in cellars.
What Is The Difference Between Champagne and Frisantes?
It is common to confuse the three types of wine. Although they look the same, they have differences between them that define the drink’s taste, quality, and final value. The main difference is found in the manufacturing process.
It must have been brewed in the Champagne region for a bubbly wine to be considered champagne. Furthermore, they can only be produced from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes, using the Champenoise method. These criteria guarantee the drink’s originality.
The foaming goes through a process similar to the champagne, but in addition to being made in various other regions of the world, and are used many grapes; the production method is generally Charmat.
The second fermentation is not carried out in bottles but in stainless steel tanks in the Charmat method. In sparkling wines, bubbles are higher due to the more significant amount of carbon dioxide produced.
Finally, sparkling wine undergoes only one fermentation, and the addition of carbon dioxide causes its effervescence. Therefore, sparkling wine has a lower sales price than other beverages, and it also has fewer bubbles.
The depends on the amount of sugar is added by Tirage Liqueur of the second fermentation, the champagne can have up to six kinds of ratings :
- Doux (sweet): has an amount of more than 60 grams of sugar per liter. Combines with sweets and fruits.
- Demi-sec (semi-dry): the amount of sugar varies between 20.1 and 60 grams per liter. Pairs with cheese and seafood.
- Sec (dry): has between 15.1 and 20 grams of sugar per liter. It is best consumed with snacks and appetizers.
- Brut (raw): presents an amount of sugar that varies between 8.1 and 15 grams per liter.
- Extra-brut (extra raw): contains about 3.1 to 8 grams per liter of sugar. Widely consumed with white sauce pasta and lobsters.
- Nature (natural): is the driest type there is, containing only 3 grams per liter of sugar. The term “natural” comes from the fact that after the degorging process no dosage liquor is added.
Curiosities Of The Champagne
- Currently, the Champagne region produces approximately 300 million bottles of champagne per year.
- The best way to consume champagne is cold and not cold, as many people assume.
- In 2016, the Champagne region was announced P atrimônio of H umanidade.
- Champagne needs to be consumed in special glasses, which need to be very clean and free from residues.
- As they say, all champagne is sparkling, but not all sparkling is champagne.