Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Celebrating National Champagne Day and New Year's Eve

Let us raise a glass of Champagne this New Year’s Eve, not just to ring in the New Year, but to also celebrate National Champagne Day! It's the perfect time to pop that cork and enjoy a cascade of bubbles.

Drinking Champagne at celebrations began in the royal courts of Europe during the late 18th Century. In fact, Champagne has always been viewed as a drink of the rich; a type of vino status symbol.

Although Dom Perignon is usually credited with the invention of Champagne (and “drinking the stars”), it wasn’t until the 19th Century that the traditional method of riddling Champagne was discovered and used reliably.

This is also when the sweetness levels of wine began to be selected. Champagne went from doux (sweet), to demi-sec (half dry), to sec (dry). Extra sec (extra dry) describes a wine with even less sugar, and brute (extra brute) is made without sugar. Extra sec is the style that the majority of Champagne is crafted in.

Vines Destroyed by Phylloxera
During the 1860’s, the Great French Wine Blight occurred. Caused by an aphid from North America, the phylloxera epidemic ravaged vineyards throughout France; over 40% of the grape vines were destroyed within a 15-year period, from the late 1850’s to the mid 1870’s. Only after grafting aphid-resistant American grape vines onto the French vines was the devastation stopped.

Champagne, as we know it, came close to disappearing during the 20th Century. Two world wars almost destroyed the Champagne vineyards, and the Russian Revolution, Prohibition, and the Great Depression closed off two of the most lucrative markets for Champagne sales in the world. But the world rebounded in 1950, and sales of Champagne has risen steadily ever since.  

Today, over 250 million bottles of Champagne are produced in France each year. The British alone enjoy over 30 million bottles of Champagne – more than anyone else in the world.

And keep in mind, Champagne is only produced in the Champagne region of France, all other bubbly wines must go by the name “Sparkling Wine.

We pour Champagne to commemorate everything, from the launch of a ship, to the joining of two lives in marriage. We use it to celebrate life events, religious occasions, and joyous celebrations. Champagne not only imparts a feeling of joyousness and wonder to an occasion, it’s also a symbol of our approval and admiration for what we are celebrating.

So this New Year’s Eve when you raise that glass of dancing bubbles to toast the New Year, remember the words of the Wine Avenger, Willie Gluckstern;

“In a perfect world, everyone would have a glass of Champagne every evening.”

Here's to a perfect New Year!

~ Joy