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A Toast to Champagne!

Happy New Year from the crew at Vintage Cellars!  We’d like to remind you that tonight, when you’re raising your glass with family and friends, to not forget a small, personal toast for that beverage of celebration: champagne!  If you’re looking for a great new bubbly to try, here’s the San Francisco Chronicle’s 100 Top Wines list, headed by seven great champagnes.

In honor of New Year’s Eve, we bring you a few interesting tidbits you might not have known about the world’s most beloved sparkling beverage:

  • Champagne was associated from the beginning with the anointment of French kings.  Since then, the word “champagne” has been synonymous with luxury and power.
  • Contrary to popular belief, Dom Perignon did not invent sparkling wine.  It was invented by English scientist and physician Christopher Merret in 1662, when he presented the Royal Society with a paper in which he detailed the “méthodePicture 6 champenoise,” basically, how to add sugar for a secondary fermentation that produces bubbles.
  • In France, the first champagne was created by mistake.  Accidental secondary fermentation caused bottles to spontaneously explode from the pressure of carbonation.  Because of this, the French called champagne “the devil’s wine.”
  • Champagne was always sweet until 1876, when Brut was first created.
  • Bubbles occur when the liquid contacts small imperfections in the glass.  These “nucleation points” are often added to champagne glasses with acid, a laser, or a glass etching tool.
  • Bottling champagne in magnum-sized bottles is said to produce a higher quality beverage, as there is less oxygen in the larger bottle, and the volume-to-surface area ratio creates bubbles of a perfect size.
  • Champagne corks are originally shaped like cylinders.  Pressure forces them into their distinct mushroom shape.  The longer champagne has been in the bottle, the more mushroom-shaped the cork.
  • Champagne is usually served in a champagne flute.  The shape of the other common glass, the Victorian flute, with the wide, short bowl, is said to have been modeled from the breast of Marie Antoinette.
  • When opened correctly, a bottle of champagne won’t make a loud popping sound, as this means you might be spilling-and wasting!  The sighing sound of a properly opened cork is called “le soupir amoureux” (the loving whisper).