Champagne has been called the “wine of kings and the king of wines.” It is a wine closely associated with special celebrations like weddings and holiday festivities. If you are planning a New Year’s Eve party, be sure to have a bottle or two of champagne on hand for the traditional midnight toast to welcome in another year.
What is Champagne?
For a wine to be called champagne, it must come from the Champagne region of France. It must be made from one or more of three grape varietals: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay or Pinot Meunier. No other grapes are allowed. Although other wines are made in the region, it is sparkling wine that makes the Champagne district legendary. The tiny bubbles in champagne are created naturally during a secondary fermentation. Other strict quality controls dictate exact production methods and ensure a consistent end result.
Sparkling wines are made throughout the world, but these wines are not legally allowed to be labeled as “champagne.”
What we think of today as champagne was actually created by accident and took many decades to perfect. There is a well-publicized legend that champagne was discovered by the Benedictine monk, Dom Pérignon. This myth originated with an advertising campaign from the late 1800’s that quoted him as saying “Come quickly, I am drinking the stars” when he first tasted sparkling wine.
While Dom Pérignon did indeed make some important contributions to winemaking techniques in Champagne, it was the collective efforts of many individuals that led to the late 17-century development of this unique, delightful beverage.
Authentic champagne wines are expensive in part because they require intensive hand labor. Vintage champagnes are often aged for many years.
Enjoying and Serving Champagne
Did you know that champagne can be made in a variety of styles, from bone-dry to very sweet? Dry versions are labeled “Brut.” The sweetest versions are labeled “Demi Sec” or “Doux” and are considered dessert wines due to their high percentage of residual sugar.
Good champagne should be served cold. About three hours in the refrigerator should bring the wine to the correct temperature. Bubbly is best enjoyed in traditional flute glasses. A wide variety of foods compliment these elegant, complex wines.
New Year’s Eve Champagne Bash
A get-together for New Year’s Eve will get off to a bubbly start when your invitations feature an ice bucket overflowing with champagne bottles and glasses. You might even want to make champagne the theme of your party by serving a dinner with different champagnes matched to each course.
Naturally, not everyone will want to spend a small fortune on authentic champagne. Don’t worry! There are many delicious sparkling wines that come from every corner of the globe. You could serve an Italian Prosecco, a Spanish Cava or a homegrown American sparkler. Celebrating with good bubbly doesn’t have to be a budget-buster. Sparkling wines can also be turned into punch or famous cocktails like the Bellini or a Mimosa.
However you decide to celebrate the New Year, make sure to include a good champagne or sparkling wine as part of the festivities.