What do Coco Chanel, Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens and Napoleon Bonaparte have in common? A passion for Champagne of course! Not sure it’s worth the fuss? It sure is says Josiah Kahiu who is keen to tell us why it is worth investing in the good stuff for the special occasion.
There are very few sounds in the world that evoke a sense of celebration as the unmistakable “pop” of a champagne bottle. From the time of the royal French court to date, it is the only drink that can be associated with celebration. It is that bubbly time of year so as most of you will be reaching your bubbly quota in the next few weeks, we thought a quick write-up on the world of champagne is needed.
So what makes Champagne so different from all the other sparkling wines in the market? Simply put, it’s the method of production. In the world of wine, Champagne is widely considered to be the highest quality, longest living, most complex and expressive form of sparkling wine on the market. It takes the longest time to produce and requires the largest amount of labour compared to all other forms of sparkling wine.
People often wonder why Champagne is so expensive and wonder whether it might be worth just spending their money on some cheaper bubbly. The truth is that the Champagne Method or Traditional method as it is known outside of France, is the only way to make this timeless drink. What this means is that after the first fermentation of base wine (usually Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier) a secondary fermentation must occur in the bottle. In simple terms, the base wine is added to a bottle with a certain amount of yeast and left to ferment again, creating a whole new set of bubbles in the bottle. When the yeast has done its job and has died, the spent yeast called lees is left in the bottle. This may not sound so appealing, dead yeast in a bottle, but it is what actually gives Champagne the complexity, richness and texture. How long the wine stays on lees is generally decided by the winemaker or the regulations governing the production of the area.
After the bottling phase, Champagne still has to go a further four steps before a label is slapped on it – ageing, riddling, disgorgement and dosage. These steps are done to settle, clarify and add that secret special ingredient that adds finesse to the bottle. All these steps together mean that many hours of labour are spent on creating that bottle and hence the price.
So is the hype about Champagne really worth it? From the high-class royalty types to the show off rapper, bubbly always evokes memories of celebration and the high life. When we think of drinking a glass of champagne, it evokes memories of celebration and big events. Whether it is lifelong memories such as celebrating the birth of your first child or just bringing in the new year, there is rarely a sad moment when a bottle
is pulled out. For this reason, regular champagne drinkers are the larger than life type personalities. Life is a show and if there are any problems tomorrow, they can always be sorted with a glass of bubbly in your hand.