Champagne: Everything You Need To Know

April 17, 2020

Champagne Bottle

Champagne is one of the most iconic drinks around, so it’s no surprise that so many of our customers use our champagne delivery service to help them celebrate a special occasion in style. Light, bubbly and elegant, there’s nothing like sharing a toast over a glass of fizz. And if you’ve ever wondered about its history, champagne drinking etiquette, or how to store and serve your bottles, we’re sure you’ll find the answers within these common champagne FAQs.

What is champagne?

Champagne is a sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region in northeast France. Though it shares similarities with other sparkling wines like Italian prosecco and Spanish cava, a wine can only legally be labelled as champagne if it comes from its namesake French appellation, and is made under its rules. These regulations apply to everything from how the grapes are planted and grown, to the way bottles are labelled and packaged.

The three most common grape varieties are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, though Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Arbane, Petit Meslier are also approved and used in small quantities. There are also a few different kinds of champagne. For example, blanc de blancs are made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes (or Pinot Blanc in rare instances), while blanc de noirs are produced entirely from black grapes, even though they are white wines. Another example is rosé champagne — the only French wine where rosé is created by adding a small amount of red wine during blending.

Champagne can be expensive because of the time and intense effort it takes to produce it. However, the high prices also reflect its status as a luxury tipple, as champagne was popular with royalty between the 17th and 19th centuries. It, therefore, became associated with celebrations amongst the upper classes, with the fact that it is made in only one place in the world also adding to its prestige.

Who invented champagne?

The monk Dom Pérignon is often thought to be the inventor of the beverage, though this has been widely contested. In 2019, Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, head of Taittinger Champagne, told  Le Figaro that champagne was actually invented in England — by mistake. “The English left these inexpensive still white wines on the London docks and the wines got cold so they started undergoing a second fermentation [causing them to become carbonated],” he explained.

To complicate matters further, the oldest recorded sparkling wine is Blanquette de Limoux, supposedly invented by Benedictine monks in 1531, while in 1662, English physician Christopher Merret presented a paper on the addition of sugar to a finished wine to create a second fermentation. Both of these predate when Pérignon is said to have ‘invented’ champagne, in 1697.

Though it’s questionable whether the monk was the true founder of champagne, he certainly made very important contributions to the industry. For example, he developed the technique to create white wine from red grapes, and blended grapes from multiple vineyards. His impact was so profound that champagne house Moët & Chandon even named its prestige Dom Pérignon champagne after him.

How long does champagne last?

While many fine wines can be stored for decades, champagne’s lifespan is far shorter. A non-vintage — which contains grapes harvested over several years and is aged for 18 months — will typically last three to four years unopened. Vintage champagnes — made from grapes harvested originating in a single year, and aged for a further three — can last between five and ten years. Check the label to see what type of champagne you have and, if there is a date listed, it is vintage.

Of course, champagnes will only last this long in the right conditions. So, store your champagne in a cool, dark place, where temperatures stay fairly constant, and rest bottles horizontally to keep the corks moist. You should also ensure they are far from any vibrating appliances like fridges and washing machines. Vibrations can disturb the sediment in the bottle and cause chemical reactions that speed up the ageing process.

Once your champagne is open, it can be enjoyed for three to five days if you let it chill in the fridge. However, if you want your champagne to stay fizzy, you’re better off leaving it in an ice bucket overnight to reduce the amount of gas that will be released. You should also either insert an airtight hermetic cork or dangle a spoon in the mouth of the bottle. The metal will cool the neck, creating a cold air plug that prevents the gases in the champagne rising too fast.

How many glasses are in a bottle of champagne?

 A champagne flute can generally contain about 180 to 300ml of liquid. As a standard bottle of champagne is 750ml, this will fill six to eight glasses, depending on how generously you pour.

How many units are in a glass of champagne?

According to Drinkaware, there are 1.5 units in a 125ml glass of 12% ABV champagne. Consuming nine glasses over the course of a week would take you over the UK Chief Medical Officer’s recommendation of 14 units at most.

How many calories are in a glass of champagne?

 Drinkaware also notes that there are 86 calories in a 125ml glass of 12% ABV champagne. This is roughly equivalent to a small banana, and you would need to run for roughly nine minutes to burn those calories off. However, this is still significantly less than a pint of lager (180 calories), a shot of dark spirit with mixer (106), or an alcopop (171 calories).

How do you pour champagne?

  1. Insert your thumb into the punt (the dimple on the bottom of the bottle) and hold the bottle with your other four fingers. However, if this feels too unsturdy, just hold the bottle with your hands.
  2. Pour a splash of champagne into the glass to ‘wet’ it, enabling the bubbles to settle.
  3. Continue to pour at a 90 degree angle, leaving the glass between ¼ and ⅓ empty. Alternatively, pour into a tilted glass. This method is said to retain more gas and stop the champagne from foaming at the top of the flute.

How do you hold a champagne glass?

The correct way to hold a champagne flute is to pinch the stem of the glass between your thumb and fingers. Your thumb should rest on one side, and your fingers on the other. Don’t hold the top of the glass, as the heat from your hand will warm the champagne up. Tilt the flute as a 45-degree angle when you want to drink it, as this allows you to enjoy small sips without any spillages.

How can you tell if champagne has gone bad?

Champagne doesn’t go bad in the sense it would be dangerous to drink. However, over time it will lose its fizz, which isn’t what you want from a sparkling wine. That said, though it will taste different, that won’t necessarily mean it will taste bad. In the worst case scenario, bad champagne may develop a sour smell and flavour. If your champagne has lost its bubbles and turns a deep yellow or gold colour, these are signs it has probably gone off.

 


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