American humorist Mark Twain once observed: “Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.”
Whether it’s the cork popping, the tiny bubbles swirling in crystal glasses, or the fact that Champagne is the beverage of choice for special occasions – the mere act of opening a bottle makes anything seem festive. Clearly, we should take Twain’s advice and drink Champagne (or Crémant, Prosecco, Cava and Sekt) more often!
Sparkling wines have fascinated wine lovers since the Middle Ages, when the wines of the Loire Valley were consumed by French Kings and their courtiers. Crémant, production was especially in demand and consequently became more refined within the region. To this day, Loire continues to be one of France’s largest sparkling wine producers outside of Champagne.
The oldest recording of sparkling wine dates back to Benedictine Monks in the Languedoc-Rousillon region of France – a long way from Champagne. However, the world’s most famous Benedictine monk, Dom Pierre Pérignon evidently didn’t invent Champagne, nor apparently did he exclaim: “Come quickly, I am drinking the stars!” Pérignon is credited with improving the quality of wines in Champagne, while a clever ad campaign in the late 19th Century is now attributed with his starry quote (Hugh Johnson – The Story of Wine)
But, then again, part of the allure of Champagne is that it is as much a blend of grapes as mythology. We enjoy both parts equally. Histories of famous Champagne houses further establish the legendary status of their wines:
Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin, who was widowed at 27, managed to transform her husband’s vineyard into an international Champagne house known as Veuve Clicquot.
Alexander II of Russia was worried about explosives being hidden in his wine, so Louis Roederer created clear lead glass Champagne bottles for the Czar – now famously known as Cristal.
For centuries, Jacques Fourneaux, founder of Taittinger was believed to have brought the Chardonnay grape from Cyprus to France on his return from the Crusades. Sadly, genetic studies conducted by the University of California Davis disproved this charming story. Fortunately, Taittinger grapes continue to produce world-class Champagne nonetheless.
Moët & Chandon was Napoleon’s signature wine. “I drink Champagne when I win, to celebrate…and I drink Champagne when I lose, to console myself.”
And, of course, the venerable house of Bollinger, dating back to 1585, is the favorite champagne of the world’s most famous spy. 007‘s quip to Agent Holly Goodhead (Roger Moore to Lois Chiles in Moonraker, 1979) set off a buying frenzy that continues today: “Bollinger? If it’s ’61, you were expecting me…”
Here a few of our favorite Champagne selections at prices to help you celebrate!
Bollinger Special Cuvee Brut – $49.99 – A particular favorite of Allen Meadows (Burghound), who rates this Champagne as “Outstanding…with lovely complexity.”
Bollinger Special Cuvee Rose – $72.99 – “Very long, even thrilling on the finish,” says James Suckling
Gosset Cuvee (Aged 15 years) – $99.99
Ayala Brut Majeur – $34.99
Ayala Brut Rose – $48.99
Montigny Cremant de Bourgogne Brut – $16.99
Montigny Cremant de Bourgogne Rose – $16.99
Guest blog, by Marla Norman, Publisher Travel Curious Often and Co-Owner of Michel Thibault Wine LLC.
PHOTO: Michel Thibualt, Drs. Bobbie & Dwight Oldham, Dr. Melvin & Deborah Oakley and Marla Norman on a recent trip to Champagne.