Going Ape for Bubbles

26 Apr

See *Tangent below.

I like wine.  I don’t know much about it but that hasn’t stopped me from drinking it.  Off the top of my head I can tell you that there is red wine and white wine and sparkling wine.  The pronunciations of most of the different wines I can manage.  And if I want to really impress you I might throw the word “varietal” out there but that’s kind of it.

During our trip we will be consuming wine.  Yay!  I recall when my family was in Rome that we had been at a restaurant where table wine was cheap and water was expensive.  I’d been allowed to get wine with the big kids.  Suddenly Dad noticed that I was very giggly and red-faced.  Then he realized that I had been thirsty and that our service had been very good.  His daughter was drunk.  Proud parental moment, you bet.

When we visit Europe I will have much more experience with vino than before.  I still won’t be able to tell cheap wine from very, very cheap wine.  I’m okay with that.  We will be visiting some champagne caves or cave (pronounced “kah-vay”).  Thanks to that, I’ve been doing a tiny bit of research on bubbly.  I hope to do a bunch more before and during our trip.

Champagne didn’t always mean bubbles; it meant a region of northern France.  The word “champagne” started with the Romans and their Latin word “campania”.  Over the years this turned into the French “Champaign” and then “Champagne”.  There were vines there during the time of the Romans.  In fact, the vines were producing such great wine that Emperor Domitian had a decree set in place to stop production as the competition was too much for southern wines.  Boo!  Hiss!  The French, however, managed to do some sneaky bottling on the side and were happy to get back into production when another emperor said have at it.

There are laws set in place that only allow a specific region in France to produce champagne now.  A bunch of this land was left to different monasteries when people went off to the Crusades.  People had a habit of not returning from the Crusades so this land stayed with the monasteries.  This land was also a big excavation site for chalk.  And because everyone was into reduce, reuse and recycle back then, the monks used these deep pits for storing champagne.

And storing champagne appeared to be very dangerous.  Bottles would explode with no warning.  Vintners had to add sugar to the wine because the growing season in the north is too short.  (That explains Boone’s Farm)  Someone figured out that you should add sugar made from grape juice.  That was a good idea but this meant that up to 80% of those bottles were exploding.  That’s when some new fangled chemist determined the correct amount of sugar needed to make the bubbles more predictable and the bottles breaking a good story for tour guides.

Then there is the question of the bubbles.  Most believe that Dom Pérignon discovered them.  He actually worked to refine bubbles that – gasp! – the English discovered.  I didn’t want to believe it either.  Most sources on this say that the French made the wine and shipped it to the English.  When it was on its way to jolly old England, it went through a second fermentation and voíla… bubbles!  I read somewhere that in order to tell a fine champagne from, say, Andre’s, you look at the bubbles.  If the chain is rapid, small and unbroken then that’s going to cost you.  If your bubbles are sluggish, larger and wobble about the glass like a drunk college student then you’re drinking with me.  Pass the bottle when you’re done hiccupping, will ya?

*Tangent:  When I visited Kristin once, she went out and tried to buy all my favorite things because the journey had been kind of rough.  She went to the liquor store and asked for their best bottle of pink champagne.  They looked at her as if she had asked “show me your finest Pizza Rolls.  I’ll spare no expense!” and then they pointed her to the Andre’s.  So I guess it really is the best.


One Response to “Going Ape for Bubbles”


  1. Enough is Enough « Trip Ahoy! - 2011/06/06

    […] same day we visit the champagne caves in Reims (rhymes with France), we will also be visiting what the French call Musée de la Reddition.  That […]

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