by Tim Atkin

A beginner’s guide to Champagne


Become an instant expert — this month: Champagne

Dom Pérignon didn’t invent bubbles; we did. Christopher Merret presented a paper to the Royal Society about sparkling wine in December 1662, six years before Dom Perignon arrived in Champagne.

Champagne is fermented twice: once in a tank (or occasionally a barrel) and once in the bottle in which it’s sold. If it weren’t aged in bottle, it would be virtually undrinkable, such is its acidity.

A single bottle contains anything between 49 and 250 million bubbles and the pressure inside can reach 90 psi, so the bottles have to be made from thicker glass.

Two of Champagne’s three grape varieties (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay) are black. Gentle pressing and the fact that their juice is clear explain why fizz is normally white. Blanc de Blancs Champagne is made entirely from Chardonnay; Blanc de Noirs from the two Pinots. Pink Champagne is usually made by adding a little still red wine to the blend.

We Brits drink more Champagne (roughly 30 million bottles a year) than anyone else, except the French.

“Champagne makes you feel like it’s Sunday and better days are around the corner” (Marlene Dietrich)

Two of the best:

Skinted: Waitrose Blanc de Blancs Champagne (£21.99, 12.5%)

Minted: 1998 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne (£100, 12%, Majestic)

Originally published in Observer Food Monthly

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