Champagne Facts: 10 fizzy facts you need to know

Posted by Mirela Mart

Champagne is the drink of choice for special occasions but, personally, I try to find an excuse to enjoy a glass more often. Our first Champagne fact: Matthew likes it with popcorn.

‘Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne’ – Winston Churchill during World War I

Pouring champagne in glasses

‘I drink Champagne when I win, to celebrate…and I drink Champagne when I lose, to console myself.’ (Napoleon Bonaparte)

Despite our best efforts to democratise it, the bubbles are a symbol of luxury, celebration, joy and the good life. Pioneers of Champagne as we know it today were Madame Clicquot early nineteenth century, Monsieur Moët, followed by enthusiasts and entrepreneurs like Krug, Bollinger, Roederer. All famous names now.

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two girls in vintage dresses drinking champagne

Three main grapes varieties go into Champagne: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. However it comes in a range of styles and tastes. It is pricier than other sparkling wines because of the brand value, limited production and the extra costs involved in making it. (See our article: How sparkling wine and champagne get their sparkle.)

I have tried and enjoyed other sparkling wines, but I must admit that my heart still belongs to Champagne, even if I have to dig deep into my wallet to buy it. Perhaps this is why I geek out so much about it.

Champagne Fact #1: The first and the best

Let’s ‘give to Caesar what is Caesar’s’: Champagne was the first region in the world to produce sparkling wine.

old champagne region map
1852 Levasseur Map of the Department De La Marne, France (Champagne Wine Region), as displayed on Wikimedia Commons

Champagne Fact #2: The British invented it

The development of stronger English glass bottles made it possible to store and distribute sparkling wine. Some have even claimed that the British invented the stuff. French glass was thinner-skinned and simply exploded under pressure whereas bottles made from British glass kept their upper lips stiff, kept calm and carried on. In the 18th century, only few thousands of bottles were produced every year, with half of them breaking during the second fermentation.

Champagne Fact 3: High pressure

It’s hardly surprising that you need a sturdy bottle. A Champagne bottle can have a pressure of 6-7 atmospheres pressure (100psi), compared to a car tire which is around two atmospheres (32psi). A Prosecco bottle has 2-3 atmospheres.

3 tires
Pressure in a champagne bottle: three times a tyre’s

Champagne fact Fact #4: Expensive grapes

CIVC limits yields and growers pick grapes by hand to avoid damaging them. This drives up the cost per kilogram to around €6, reaching up to €8.5 per kilogram for grand crus. As a comparison, prices for Cava grapes are €0.8-1/kg, and grapes for Prosecco can run between €1.5-3/kg.

Champagne Fact #5: Gently pressed

Due to juice extraction restrictions, it takes 1.2kg of grapes to produce one 750ml bottle of champagne. The best champagnes use only the first four-fifths of the extracted juice, gently pressed (equivalent of 1.5kg of top quality grapes), called cuvée. The remaining 20% called taille is given away for distillation.

champagne grape press
Grape press in Champagne as displayed on champagne.fr

Champagne Fact #6: It’s a blend

The base wine can be made by blending as many as different 70 wines from different grapes and different vintages, with the exception of vintage champagne, where grapes come from the stated vintage.

Champagne base wine blending, as displayed on champagne.fr
Wine blending, as displayed on champagne.fr

Champagne Fact #7: It’s getting dryer

Champagne was initially sweet. English market preferred dryer style, leading to a shift towards Brut styles. That trend is continuing with a growing preference for brut nature wines without any added sugar at all.

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Champagne Fact #8: Red and white = rosé

The rosé style is the only wine in EU that can be made by blending a red wine with a white wine.

white and red wine blending in a glass

Champagne Fact #9: Age before beauty

Non vintage champagne needs to be aged minimum 15 months, while vintage champagne must spend at least 36 months on its lees. However, big champagne houses age their non- vintage champagne much longer than the minimum required period. The best champagne continues to develop as it ages and there are hundreds of millions of bottles in cellars across the region and around the world, like uncut diamonds waiting to be dug up and enjoyed.

Krug Grande Cuvee spent
Krug Grande Cuvée spent 7 years in bottle

Champagen Fact #10: Blingtastic bottles

The most expensive bottle of bubbles in the world is: Goût de Diamants. It’s the ultimate in conspicuous consumption. For the price of a small Scottish castle, you can have a bottle covered in gold and bearing a diamond. All this luxury costs about £1 million per bottle. Fortunately for the rest of us, a cheaper version, without the diamond, is a mere £150,000. Suddenly spending £100 on a bottle of vintage Bollinger seems utterly reasonable. Good value even.

Goûts de Diamants Champagne bottle. Few mortals can enjoy it.
Goûts de Diamants Champagne bottle. Few mortals can enjoy it.
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