Dummie’s Guide to Champagne

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Dummie’s Guide to Champagne


The name: Champagne is a sparkling wine named after the region where it’s made – Champagne, which is north-east of Paris. Only wines made in the traditional method from this region are permitted to call themselves Champagne.

Taste: People forget that champagne is a wine, and has a very distinctive taste.  It’s very dry, with flavours of toast, yeast, bread, apple and lemon, sometimes nutty, and with refreshing acidity.  Champagnes have very lively, tiny, long-lasting bubbles.

The bubbles: Each glass of champagne contains about 10 million bubbles.  The bubbles are created by a secondary fermentation in the actual bottle. The slower the fermentation, the finer and longer-lasting the bubbles.

How it’s made: typically, wines from different varieties (and years) are blended, then bottled. A mixture of yeast and sugar is added to each individual bottle. The hungry yeast gobbles up the sugar, and creates bubbles and alcohol. These bubbles are trapped in the sealed bottle. The wine is then aged for a minimum of 15 months in cellars, some for much longer. Finally, the yeast is removed from each individual bottle, it’s re-sealed with a cork, and will be shipped shortly after. It’s a long and expensive process!

Non-vintage: Most champagne is ‘non-vintage.’ If it doesn’t state a year on the label, it’s a blend of several vintages.

Brut: Most champagnes sold are ‘Brut’ which means that they are dry. The trend has been to make even drier Champagnes in recent years.

Grapes:  There are 3 grapes used in making Champagne: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Meunier (related to Pinot Noir).  Champagnes with more black grapes tend to be more structured and powerful (eg. Veuve Clicquot).  Those with more Chardonnay tend to be more feminine & elegant (Laurent Perrier).

Dom Perignon: Most houses have a ‘prestige’ wine, which is about 3 times more expensive. This is made from the best vineyards, and aged for longer. Moet’s is Dom Perignon.

Drinking occasions: Champagne has almost always been associated with victories, from Napoleonic wars through to Grand Prix racing in modern times.  Champagne and celebration has become intertwined as a result. It’s also the wine most associated with romance.

Who drinks it? Champagne is very much associated with the fairer sex, and I don’t think they’d call that stereotyping… just as long as you’re buying!

Calories?   Champagne is one of the lowest-calorie wines you can drink at around 150 calories for a generous 175ml flute…. perhaps the reason  supermodels drink it? It’s been proven that bubbles help absorb alcohol into the bloodstream more quickly.

Price: champagne is always expensive. It’s a lot more expensive to produce than say, prosecco.  Some of the best-known houses price their wines at a premium, in an effort to position them as being more luxurious.  Better value can be had from grower champagnes and co-operative champagnes, like Jean Comyn (exclusive to Molloys).

Food match: most people sip it solo. To really bring out the flavour, drink it with some savoury pastries like cheese straws or gougeres. It’s also super with sushi!

Molloys top picks:

Jean Comyn Champagne Gift Box

Jean Comyn NV Champagne – this is one that Molloys import directly & here’s what The Irish Sun said of it: “Fine and smooth bubbles from a crisp dry Champagne, with citrus and green apples flavours, freshness and balance…. It took several phone calls to find out why this stand-out Champagne was so good and yet reasonably priced.”

Bollinger Special Cuveé Champagne Brut NV 750ml

Bollinger Special Cuvée, as favoured by James Bond…  amazingly lively and fresh, with really creamy mousse, great depth and length of flavour.  Made using 75% black grapes, and aged for much longer than normal.

Moët & Chandon Brut Imperial Champagne NV 750ml

Moët NV is instantly recognisable. Notes of citrus and flowers, decent and lasting bubbles, and a slightly nutty finish.

Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne NV 750ml

Veuve Clicquot NV  a rich style of champagne, with terrific freshness, elegance and depth of flavour (citrus, almonds, yeast).

If you enjoyed learning about Champagne, you may be interested in learning about the Bordeaux wine region! Click Here to read on.

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