A Toast to the New Year!

As New Year’s Eve approaches we will raise a glass to 2018… “We’ll drink a cup of kindness yet for auld lang syne”. Pop the cork! A champagne midnight toast! So where does that lovely bubbly stuff come from? How did it become the drink of celebration?

Champagne is the region in France where true Champagne (the liquid) comes from, just as Burgundy wines come from Burgundy. (Otherwise, carbonated wine is actually called “sparkling wine.”)

Until the mid-1400s Champagne’s wines were the toast (get it) of Paris, because it was easily transported down the Marne River. However, in the late 1400s something changed. Europe got colder. Therefore, when it came time to bottle the wine, the cooler temperature stopped the fermentation process. When the temperature warmed up in the spring, fermentation started again. This second fermentation produced carbon dioxide in excess, becoming trapped in the bottles, creating a slight fizz.

The French aristocracy hated this “fizz” as it was a sign of poor wine making. Thus Champagne’s wines fell out of favor entirely. In 1668, almost 200 years later, the church assigned a 29-year-old monk named Don Pierre Perignon with the task of trying to remove the bubbles and make the wine once more. He was able to reduce but not eliminate the bubbles. Luckily, in that time tastes began to shift and sparkling wines became fashionable in high society.

Don Perignon then changed his objective entirely. Now instead of getting rid of the bubbles, he developed techniques to increase the bubbles in wine, thus creating the Champagne we know today.

One key invention of Don Perignon is the cork, which replaced the use of rags or wood to stop the bottles. The cork was crucial for keeping the bubbles in the Champagne. Aren’t we so glad Don Perignon didn’t succeed in removing the bubbles entirely?

A Few Champagne Fun Facts:

  • A wine cork can reach 30 miles per hour flying out of bottles
  • There are 12 grams of carbon dioxide per 1 liter bottle
  • The best way to pour all sparkling wines is down the side of the glass slowly to lose less carbonation

The historical information from this blog post came from Uncorked

For more information on Champagne, please check out Champagne! It comes with beautiful detailed maps of the region and its vineyards. 

For non purest out there, these books have some very festive cocktails to capture the holiday spirit! 

Champagne Cocktails

Punch Bowls and Pitcher Drinks

We welcome your respectful and on-topic comments and questions in this limited public forum. To find out more, please see Appropriate Use When Posting Content. Community-contributed content represents the views of the user, not those of St. Louis Public Library