All posts by The Champagne Curator

a-year-in-champaign

Samuel Goldwyn Serving ‘A Year in Champagne’ in 2015

Samuel Goldwyn Films has bought North American rights to David Kennard’s documentary “A Year in Champagne” with plans for an early spring release.

Kennard’s follow-up to “A Year in Burgundy” screened at the Santa Barbara and Palm Beach International Film Festivals.

The film features behind-the-scenes footage at six Champagne houses, including Saint-Chamant, Gosset and Bollinger.

“Champagne is a beverage that people immediately associate with luxury and celebration and the film pays tribute to the region and people who make this very special wine,” said said Peter Goldwyn. “David takes the viewer on an incredible journey and delivers a vibrant, inside look at the complex world of champagne production.”

The deal was negotiated by Ian Puente and executive producer Todd Ruppert.

Goldwyn’s current titles include Freida Mock’s documentary “Anita,” William H. Macy’s feature directorial debut “Rudderless” and “The Last of Robin Hood.”

Hard decision to make

3 Tricks to Remedy a Wine Headache

I used to get a wine headache it seemed with every glass of red wine. As much as I prayed it was a fluke and that I wouldn’t fall victim to the infamous Red Wine Headache (RWH), with every drink, after about an hour, my head would start throbbing. Does this sound like you or someone you know who refuses delicious wine in order to save themselves a headache? Well, as it turns out there are several things that could cure you. There are also a very small number of people who are incurable and life will suck for them for reasons other than just wine.

I’m hoping you found this article in the stack of articles on red wine headaches, because chances are there are only 3 things you need to do to fix your problem.

3 Tricks to Remedy a Wine Headache

#1 Drink a Glass of Water With Every Glass of Wine.

The most common mistake that wine drinkers make is hydration. It’s easy to forget because you are drinking already. When there’s wine involved hydration is key and water is what you need. Make it a habit to chug a glass of water prior to enjoying a glass of wine. It may stress your waiter out but your forehead will appreciate you.

#2 Take “Two” Asprin Before Drinking.

By “two” I mean two aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen. This is not recommended if you drink heavily, however if you’re like me and just want to enjoy a glass of wine without the ensuing headache, it’s reasonable to de-crud your blood with some over-the-counter blood thinners. The pills are also a great way to force yourself to drink a glass of water. Since I’m suggesting over-the-counter-drugs and I’m not your doctor, be sure to consult your doctor first. If you are uncomfortable with this idea, skip to trick #3 and repeat trick #1.

#3 Don’t Eat Sugary Things with Wine.

The only thing worse than a red wine headache is a cake-and-wine headache. Confetti cake sounds particularly amazing (especially after a glass of wine), however the combination of sugar and alcohol will greatly exacerbate the potential for a headache. If you are sensitive to wine, reserve confetti cake for your midnight coffee-and-cake binges only and stave off the dessert desire while drinking wine.

When I started drinking wine I got a lot of headaches. As it turns out, my wine choices (of cheapo grocery store wine) may have contributed to the reaction. Poorly made wines tend to have more adulteration such as residual sugar, sulfur, fining agents or higher alcohol to make them taste better. If it comes from a box or has a critter on the label then it’s suspect for headache potential.
“If it comes from a box or has a critter on the label then it’s suspect for headache potential.”

MYTH: Sulfites in Wine Cause Headaches

Back in the 1980s the food and drug administration discovered that about 1% of the population was allergic to sulfites. Because of the health concern for the sensitive population, wines above 20 ppm (parts per million) must be labeled with “contains sulfites”. Sulfites are found naturally on grapes and sulfur is also commonly added in small amounts at the beginning of fermentation and prior to bottling. Typically red wines have about 50-350 ppm and white wines have more, about 250-450 ppm (because of extreme sensitivity to light, heat and discoloration). The general litmus test for sulfites sensitivity is dried fruit. Mangos and apricots contain about 4-10 times as many (1000-3000 ppm) sulfites.

FACT: Histamines Cause Inflammation

Dr. Freitag from the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago originally wrote an article about how histamines may be the culprit in causing red wine headaches(1). Foods that have been fermented or aged have higher levels of histamines such as tofu, tempeh, champagne, red wine, ketchup and aged meats. Histamines can cause inflammatory flushing and wakefulness at night. Since most histamines are a cause of allergic reactions (similar to hay-fever), taking an anti-histamine prior to drinking may solve the problem. An ancient Chinese cure calls for black or oolong tea to reduce swelling(2).

THEORY: Sensitivity to Tannins

Tannin is what gives a red wine pigment, bitterness and that mouth-drying reaction. It also is what makes red wines last a long time. Many red wine headache sufferers point to tannin as the problem because white wines contain much less. The tannin comes from the skins, seeds and stems of a grape and also from wood. Many commercial wines also add tannins from commercial refined sources made from chestnut, Indian gooseberry, gambir leaf and the wood of a very dense dark-wooded Spanish tree called Quebracho(1). The problem with the tannin argument is that chocolate, tea and soy are also all very high in tannin, so it begs the question “If you do not react to tannin in tea, why would you react to tannin in wine?”

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5 Facts That Will Change the Way You Drink Champagne

You don’t have to be a wine connoisseur to know that champagne is delicious. But it would be nice to know a few facts in order to buy the right type, store it smartly, and get the most out of each bottle.

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1. The Serving Glass Matters. “If you are drinking champagne (and in some cases, other high-quality sparkling wine) in a flute, you might be missing out!” Belinda warns. “The complex aromas, texture, flavors and finish of a long-cellared wine are best enjoyed in a proper wineglass. You are, in essence, drinking a fine chardonnay—give the wine some space and increase your drinking pleasure.”

2. Champagne Pairs Well With Everything. Wondering which wine will pair well with every course, appetizer through dessert? “Champagne and other sparkling wines work with the entire tasting menu,” says Belinda. Her pick? “A richer pinot-noir-based style like Yellow Label from Veuve Clicquot can act just like a glass of pinot with your grilled salmon, roast chicken, smothered pork chops, or lacquered duck.”

3. Champagnes Don’t Need to Be Aged Like Wine. Saving that bottle of nice champagne you received as a gift for a “special” occasion? No need: “Most sparkling wines are designed to be consumed on release—from the wine store to your fridge and then into your glass. Though champagnes can certainly change, evolve, and improve with time, the champagne houses have already done the work for you: By law, a non-vintage (blend of grapes and wines from several different harvest years) has to be aged for a minimum of 15 months (for a vintage champagne, three years).

4. If You Must Store Champagne, Do It Like This. “Keep the bottles horizontally to keep the corks moist—dry corks lead to shrinkage and other bad things. Store in a cool (55 degrees is ideal, and cooler is fine), dark (wine and champagnes are subject to “light poisoning”), humid place. Your refrigerator is not ideal for long-term storage as some of the older models can vibrate which can affect what is inside the bottle.” Where does Belinda store hers? The closet!

5. What to Do If You Can’t Finish a Bottle. “If you are a single girl like myself, stock half bottles—so many champagne and sparkling wine producers make them! I like to keep a six-pack of 375-milliliter champagne in my fridge. If you’re opening a full-size bottle, invest in a metal stopper (many cost just a few dollars). Popping one of these will save the contents for a few days. Worst-case scenario: Use the remaining champagne for a delicious white wine sauce.”

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Sabering Champagne

Alton-with-SaberNapoleon is known to have said “Champagne, in victory you deserve it, in defeat you need it.” And he should know. As his light calvary units stylishly charged around Europe in the early 19th century they drank a great deal of the stuff, or so legend states. Being typically in a rush and not wishing to fuss with more traditional modes of cork removal, these rakish lads got in the habit of simply lopping the tops of the bottles off with their sabers. The art of sabrage or “sabering” might seem a quaint anachronism were it not for the fact that deftly and nonchalantly displaying skill at this bit of lethal legerdemain tells everyone in your party that you have a saber, you aren’t afraid to use it, and there’s champagne. In this day and age I can think of few reasons more noble.

Since we live in an the age litigator – I’ll go ahead and tell you right now that under no condition do I advocate you attempting to undertake this desperately dangerous display of panache. Odds are you’re not cool enough anyway and will just come off looking like a dope with a fistful of glass standing in a bubbly puddle.

Start with a bottle of french champagne because they use thicker glass and that’ll make for a cleaner annulus or ring of glass. Take the bottle to be sabered and turn upside down in ice for at least 10 minutes. You want the neck as cold as possible. Meanwhile we’ll review some physics.
Due to a secondary fermentation inside the bottle, Carbon dioxide produced by live yeast builds up pressure typically in the range of 5 to 6 atmospheres, that’s 90 pounds of pressure per square inch which translates to 620 kiloPascals. In other words, a corked champagne bottle is a bomb waiting to go off. The point is focus and control the blast to get at the stuff inside. This can be done by applying a sharp blow here where one of the bottle seams meats the lip of the bottle or annulus…stop snickering! This is serious business. Said blow must be focused, resulting from a smooth, rapid movement of a metal object. I’ve seen it done with a lawn mower blade but why use such a rare object when you’ve got a saber hanging around?

Now, remove the outer foil from the bottle and the cage, that wire thingy that keeps the cork from just blowing out whenever it feels like.Locate one of the two seams and use either your finger or a spoon to scrape away any foil or paper that remains leaving a clean trail to the annulus. Stop snickering!

Dry the bottle thoroughly and hold in your non dominant hand with your thumb in the punt. What are you laughing at!? This will place the bottle at oh, a 30 degree angle and it keeps your hand out of the way of your magnificently sharp saber. I should add that any sword with a gentle sweep or crescent blade will do the trick so feel free to use your scimitar, or even your katana but not a Hattori Hanzo the edge of which should be kept razor sharp at all times. I like to lay a clean towel, or serviette over my hand here just in case a cleanup is warranted. Lay the blade flat against the glass midway up the bottle. Doesn’t matter if you use the back or edge of the blade, both will work. Lift the back ever so slightly and then swing through…like a golf swing meaning don’t try to stop at the contact point.
make sure you saber away from populated areas as the pressure in the bottle will turn the cork and annulus into a projectile…stop snickering.
Done properly the break will be completely clean but you should always inspect the glass for shards. And do be careful pouring as the broken bit of neck could be sharp.

19.5 feet. A record. Please dispose of this properly. Actually you won’t have to because you’re not going to do this. Right? Right.

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Were Champagne glasses were modeled on Marie Antoinette’s breasts?

Woman-in-Champagne-GlassThe search for amusing bits of trivia to trot out at cocktail parties leads many to the misbelief that the saucer-shaped champagne glass was modeled on a famed beauty’s breast. Over the years, this claim has been made of a number of women:

Marie Antoinette (1755-1793): This narcissistic French queen (wife of Louis XVI and What a pair! of apocryphal “Let them eat cake!” fame) was said to have had champagne glasses fashioned from casts of her breasts so courtiers could drink to her health from them.

Madame du Pompadour (1721-1764): This mistress of France’s Louis XV supposedly had the glasses crafted as a special gift for her imperial lover who it was said greatly admired her breasts and longed to be able to drink champagne from them.

Madame du Barry (1743-1793): The same story told about du Pompadour is also told of du Barry, another mistress of France’s Louis XV.
Empress Josephine (1763-1814): This wife of Napoleon had a great fondness for the bubbly (her champagne bills were said to have horrified her husband), so it’s not surprising this legend would attach to her.

Diane de Poitiers (1499-1566): This mistress of Henry II was said to have commissioned a glassblower at their Chateau d’Anet to make them as a present to Henry, who was particularly enamored of her breasts and harbored a fantasy to drink wine from them. In another version of the tale, Henry was the one who came up with this idea, and the mold was solely of her left breast.

Helen of Troy: Helen was said to possess “the face that launched a thousand ships,” a reference to her husband, Menelaus, coming after her and her lover, Paris, with a force of thousands. It is said Paris made wax molds of her breasts, then used those molds as forms for drinking glasses.
None of the “famed beauty’s breast” tales hold up. Champagne was invented in the 17th century when a Benedictine monk discovered a way to trap bubbles of carbon dioxide in wine. As for the glass, it was designed and made in England especially for champagne around 1663, a chronology that rules out du Barry, du Pompadour, Josephine, and Marie Antoinette, all of whom were born long after the coupe came into existence. As for de Poitiers, she died a century before either the glass or the beverage was invented. And if she existed at all, Helen of Troy antedated both champagne and the champagne glass by about two millennia.

No one knows how this rumor began, but a good guess would be someone’s drunken observations on the shape of the glass coupled with a dollop of male fantasy sparked it off.

The coupe is further associated with ladies’ breasts by the oft-repeated claim that prospective members of the Folies Bergere dance troupe were subjected to a champagne glass test — a coupe fit over their naked breasts determined who was eligible. Provided the young ladies’ charms remained within the glass, they were still in the running; if their natural wonders overflowed, it was, well, tough titties for them.

Popularity and salacious lore aside, the coupe is not the glass of choice for champagne connoisseurs. Fans of the grape swear that the best glasses to tipple from are flutes, which are tall and thin with lips that curve inward slightly at the top. Flutes concentrate the bubbles and the bouquet, heightening the champagne experience. Coupes encourage the wine to warm and go flat quickly.

Extreme close-up of explosion of champagne bottle cork

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Champagne

Extreme close-up of explosion of champagne bottle corkDazzle your New Years Eve guests with your knowledge about the golden wine from France. Tim Elliott from Honest Cooking with a list of 10 things you might not already know about Champagne.

With a new year fast approaching we have compiled some Champagne trivia to share while toasting your friends and family this weekend.

10) In the movie adaptations James Bond drinks Champagne more than any other beverage (nearly 40 glasses and counting).

9) The classic Champagne coupe was adapted from a wax mold made from the breast of Marie Antoinette.

8) There is about 90 pounds per square inch of pressure in a bottle of Champagne. That’s more than triple the pressure in an automobile tire.

7) A Champagne cork reaches a velocity of about 40 miles per hour (64 kilometers per hour) if popped out of the bottle. We recommend carefully twisting the cork out with a towel covering the bottle so no wine escapes and you don’t hurt a bystander.

6) Actress Marilyn Monroe took a bath in 350 bottles of Champagne. We are sure it was not at the proper temperature for drinking, however.

5) The longest recorded flight of a Champagne cork is over 177 feet (54 meters).

4) Don’t drink Champagne quickly or the bubbles will cause the alcohol to enter your bloodstream too fast often causing a headache. Savor your Champagne in small sips to taste the wine but also dissipate the bubbles before swallowing.

3) A Champagne riddler can turn as many as 50,000 bottles in a single day.

2) The largest bottle size for Champagne is called a Melchizedek and is equal to 40 standard bottles or 30 liters.

1) There are approximately 49 million bubbles in a standard sized bottle of Champagne.

Great sparkling wine is made all over the world but the most famous, and still unrivaled for quality, is made in France. We wish you a happy and prosperous New Year no matter what you choose to celebrate with.

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A Melchizedek of champers: 9 word facts about champagne

Glasses1It’s always difficult to say “Hello!” to January and “Good-bye…” to the holidays. Suddenly we find ourselves bogged down by the usual January blues—not to mention subjected to Blue Monday’s annual arrival — and burdened by certain debts after all that sweet and savory celebrating. Cookies, cakes, candy…butter cast haphazardly into every bubbling pot or whirring food mixer…and all capped off with a good dose of champagne come New Year’s Eve!

If it is going to be a while before you pop the next champagne cork, and you want to stave off those January blues, here’s a list of 9 interesting (and 0-calorie) champagne-related word facts to help you last until your next fix of bubbles.

1. The word champagne is derived from Latin campania, first used to describe the level open countryside around Rome. It now refers to a province in northeast France where the champagne grapes are grown, as well as to the wine itself. Latin campania is a derivative of campus, originally meaning simply a field; now in English, ‘campus’ denotes the grounds of a college or university.

2. Bubbly, a common nickname for champagne, is short for the now rarebubbly water. However, the wine was not always bubbly; up through the 19th century champagne was known largely as a pink, still wine. Any bubbliness posed difficulties: the wine would stop fermenting during the cold winters and then re-ferment in the spring, resulting in a release of carbon dioxide that tended to break the bottles. Eventually, the development of stronger bottles meant that drinkers could enjoy the sparkle that would become a defining characteristic of champagne.

3. The word bubble comes from the noun burble (also meaning a bubble), which comes from the now-obsolete verb burble, meaning to form bubbles; it’s probably onomatopoeic, a theory which makes sense if you imagine the sound of bubbles forming and popping , for example, in boiling water.

4. Speaking of onomatopoeias, another word for champagne (as well as any sparkling drink) is fizz; the noun comes from the verb fizz, a word which is purely imitative of the sound it represents.

5. An informal British name for champagne is champers. We see this same, typically British formulation of first-syllable plus -ers suffix in words likepreggers (pregnant).

6. You can also call champagne by the abbreviation sham. Compare alsoshampoo, an arbitrary alteration of the word.

7. If you’ve heard of champagne—or have 50 Cent or Jay-Z in your MP3 player—you’ve probably heard of Dom Pérignon, the prestigious brand of champagne often enjoyed by the rich and the famous. It’s named for Dom Pérignon, a Benedictine monk of the 17th century who contributed largely to the improvement of (still) Champagne wines during his lifetime. “Dom” was not his first name, by the way; instead, it’s a title (short for the Latin Dominus, ‘master’) given to certain distinguished Benedictine and Carthusian monks.

8. If you really want to impress your friends, tell them pre-toast that the champagne you’re about to enjoy is brut or demi-sec: two French words designating the taste of the wine. Brut champagne is unsweetened; the wordbrut means ‘rough’ or ‘raw’. (It’s related to the English brute, or ‘a savagely violent person or animal’, and comes from the Latin brutus meaning ‘dull, stupid’—just ask Julius Caesar.) Demi-sec, on the other hand, indicates a medium dry (or moderately sweetened) wine. We see a relative of this word in the German sparkling wine Sekt.

9. Have you ever seen one of those enormous bottles of champagne in a store window (and felt a hangover coming on just from looking at one of them)—40 times the size of a standard wine bottle? One of these enormous bottles is called a Melchizedek, named for the king and priest of the Book of Genesis who blesses Abram; his name literally means ‘my king is righteous’. Indeed, there are many different sized bottles of wine—from 0.1875 liters to 40—and, curiously, most are named for Biblical figures like Melchizedek. (Half a Melchizedek is a Nebuchadnezzar, for instance, and a fifth of a Melchizedek is known as a Methuselah.)

However, if it seems a bit too indulgent to pop another cork this year—or if (heaven forbid) you “get no kick from champagne” at all—it’s important to remember what can truly banish the January gloom: friends. (Especially friends who are happy to be regaled with tales of Benedictine monks and unexpected cognates at the next champagne-drinking opportunity!)

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Champagne facts about bubbles

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There are approximately 49 million bubbles in a standard sized bottle of Champagne.

Large bubbles are considered extremely unsightly and are not the mark of good quality Champagne. The tinier the bubble the better.

Champagne has three times the gas content of beer! It emits 30 bubbles per second!

For the best bubbles in your bubbly, hold the glass at an angle while you fill it.

For every carbon dioxide molecule that turns into a bubble in a glass of champagne, 4 others escape into the air.

A standard champagne bottle contains about 6 times its volume in dissolved carbon dioxide gas, which is responsible for the liquid’s fizz.

If you open a bottle of champagne & there’s a loud pop then you’ve actually lost bubbles.

Each champagne bubble carries tens of aromatic compounds — compounds that appear in heavier concentrations in bubbles than in the liquid champagne itself.

Opening Champagne – if you can remove the wire in 5 & a half twists, you are about to open a top quality bottle.

Moet is the number one selling brand of champagne in the world.

The world’s largest champagne glass, stands nearly 7 ft tall and holds the equivalent of 22 regular bottles. Now that’s a big glass of bubbly!

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Like Drinking the Stars! Dom Pérignon

dom-perignon-5Legend has it that Dom Pérignon, upon taking his first sip of Champagne, gushed, “I am drinking the stars!”

Though this is pure fiction, an early example of marketing baloney, Dom Pérignon was in fact a real person. His major claim to fame: he was responsible for advancing the quality of champagne in the late 17th, early 18th centuries.

Pérignon is credited with perfecting the art of blending Champagne. He blended grapes from different vineyards before pressing, choosing batches according to location, ripeness, and flavor. Through careful blending, he arrived at a consistent, distinctive flavor, a house style, a brand.

And that’s really the art of blending: creating a wine that, though the vintages change, remains relatively consistent in flavor.

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The Story of Champagne

champagne-pommery-basementDid you know the bubbles in Champagne were first considered a flaw?

Early winemakers of the Champagne region of France didn’t want effervescent wine. They considered bubbles a defect, a corruption of the still, fizz-free wine they were trying to make.

These bothersome bubbles came about unintentionally. The weather was the culprit. Being so far north, the temperature in Champagne sometimes turned too cool too soon, stopping the fermentation process short.

Once placed into bottles, this partially fermented wine became little glass time-bombs. When temperatures warmed up again in the spring, fermentation rebooted–only this time inside the bottle. The build-up of carbon dioxide (a byproduct of fermentation) created intense pressure inside the bottles and turned the tranquil cellars of Champagne into war zones of exploding bottles–and presumably led to a tremendous boon for the eye patch industry around Reims.

Of course, when the bottles didn’t burst, this secondary fermentation created bubbles, which were released harmlessly when the bottles were uncorked.

Faced with a potentially defective product, there was only one thing to do: call in the marketers! The marketing pros took what was essentially a flaw and turned it into a fabulous selling point! They positioned Champagne as a fun, festive wine. Today, of course, the very word “Champagne” is practically a synonym for celebration.

And job one for the marketers of Champagne? No doubt it was to build a better bottle, one that wouldn’t explode shards of glass into customers’ faces! (Such a thing was not considered particularly festive even by early marketing standards.) You’ll notice that today’s sparkling wines come in thick, unexploding glass bottles.

Making It Bubbly

In this way, Champagne signals the first modern wine, certainly the first mass-marketed wine. It also requires quite the industrial process. To produce Champagne, or sparkling wine, in modern times, a syrupy sugar mixture (dosage de tirage) is added to still wine to ensure a reliable secondary fermentation in the bottle. This secondary fermentation creates sediment called lees (dead yeast cells), which settle and collect in the neck of the bottle (the bottles are placed tilting forward). After a time, the bottles are uncorked, the lees are removed, and the bottles are topped off with a dosage d’expedition–a splash of extra wine to fill the gap. The lees give flavor. When disgorged, there will likely not be further quality development. So the more “time on lees” the better.

As you can see, the process of making champagne is time consuming and requires a lot of labor. And that’s the rub! Good champagne is usually pretty pricey. Excellent champagne can be stratospheric–truly the stuff for special occasions.

The Grapes that Make Champagne

Another interesting thing about Champagne is it is often made with black grapes. Specifically, Pinot Noir (also Meunier). Often Champagne is a blend of both white and black grapes. When only black or only white grapes are used, the label will let you know:

Champagne made with only black grapes will be labeled blanc de noir (white from black).
Blanc de blanc (white from white) means the grapes are all white grapes, specifically Chardonnay.
Interestingly, a blanc de noir wine does not mean it will be rosé in color. The wine might be a little more golden than a blanc de blanc, but it will still be white. Rosé champagne gets its color from still red wine being added to the bottle.

The Size of Your Bubbles

When it comes to bubbles, size does seem to matter. Small bubbles generally suggest better quality in a sparkling wine. Larger bubbles can indicate that the wine was fermented in a giant vat instead of inside the bottle according to the dictates of the vaunted Champagne method. Done correctly, you will find millions upon millions of tiny bubbles in each bottle.