As the New Year celebration approaches, we would like to salute Champagne, the top choice for toasts. We found the history and tradition of Champagne to be very interesting and wanted to share it with our readers.
Champagne takes it name from the region of France by the same name. It has a long and rich history.
Also known as “mousse,” (bubbles), Champagne was invented and perfected by Benedictine monks. Perhaps the most famous of these monks were Frere Jean Oudart (1654-1742) and Dom Pierre Perignon (1639-1715).
The Process of Making Champagne
Champagne, France is a cold region, which experiences a shorter growing season than other areas of the country. The grapes there are picked late in the year and have less time available for fermentation than grapes grown in warmer warmer regions. Normally during fermentation, yeast is used to convert grape sugar into alcohol. The onset of cold temperatures stops the fermentation process prematurely.
The Benedictine monks developed a method of making wine using a second fermentation process in a bottle in the following spring. This process created bubbles from carbonation, which gives champagne its sparkle.
The actual celebratory toast using wine can be traced back to Romans, who grew grapes in the northeast section of France in the fifth century. Upon his coronation as king of France in 987, Hugh Capet began the tradition of displaying local wine at coronation banquets. His action created the association of wine with royalty.
At that time, wines from the Champagne region were “pale, pinkish wine made from Pinot noir.” The sparkling version of Champagne grew in popularity, and as the bottles were made stronger preventing the carbonated wines from exploding, the Champagne wine industry took hold in France.
The French Champagne industry experienced some setbacks during the 20th century from riots by vineyard growers in 1910-11 and the loss of the Russian markets during the Russian revolution. Additionally, in America, Prohibition and the two world wars negatively impacted the Champagne industry.
The Champagne industry has remained resilient and many of the founding houses of Champagne, such as Krug, Pommery and Bollinger still exist. While there are many imitators of Champagne around the world, the name “Champagne” is a “protected designation of origin in the European Union. All wines from that area that are truly Champagne honor those conformance standards to carry the label of Champagne.
In effect, Champagne is not just a wine. It also is a brand, and it is a very versatile alcoholic beverage that ranges from sweet to dry in a wide price range from cheap to expensive. It can be served straight, mixed with juice or pureed fruits or even with vodka. How it is enjoyed is just a matter of preference.
As New Year Eve approaches, people all around the world will raise their glasses of Champagne and offer toasts for all good things in the New Year. While we celebrate the New Year, we also will be celebrating a rich and regal tradition.
A New Year’s Toast
Here’s wishing you more happiness than all my words can tell,
not just alone for New Year’s Eve but for all the year as well. Anonymous
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