The GROOMED Guide to Champagne

The first thing one should know about CHAMPAGNE is where it comes from. The drink we know as champagne is actually sparkling wine, basically meaning wine with bubbles in it. To be classified as CHAMPAGNE though, the sparkling wine has to be made with grapes from the region of Champagne in northeastern France. Any other sparkling wine, need not apply.

The region of Champagne was destined for great things from the very beginning. Fossil evidence shows that the wild vines in this region existed up to a million years agoÖAnd upon itís discovery, the Romans knew that it was special. Documentation of viticulture in the Champagne region dates back to 79 AD. Wines from this region were the only ones considered worthy of offering to God and Kings.

As Christianity and the churchís influence spread, more and more vineyards were bequeathed to monastic orders. These wines, realized by clerical hands, were used for coronations, the sacrament, the royal table and the consecration of treaties! From the 12th century onwards, Champagne's reputation began to cross borders and their prestige grew continuously.

Until the 17th century these celebrated wines were still light and crisp, but it was around this time that the wines of Champagne found their sparkle. Enter Dom Perignon. (Iím sure the name sounds familiar.) Although he is often attributed with the invention of Champagne, there are earlier recorded instances of the production of sparkling wine the Champagne region. But his contribution, successfully containing sparkling wine in glass bottles, did change the history of sparkling wine forever and is still used in the production of Champagne today.

So now every time you have a sip, think about the centuries of history youíre enjoying. I promise, it will heighten the experience!!!!

HOW TO DRINK IT (This is the fun partÖ)

The glassware used in the consumption of Champagne is very important. A Champagne flute is specially designed to bring the best out of the drink. It keeps the bubbles contained and creates an abundant, fine foam.

Okay, so youíve purchased a beautiful bottle of champagne for your guests and POW, you hit one in the eye with the cork!!! (Trust me, itís happened.) To avoid this cork disaster and others, there are a few simple rules.

-CHILL THE BOTTLE: Make sure the champagne is chilled! The bottle should be very cold, not just cool to the touch. 7 degrees Celsius is ideal. Warm + Champagne equals LOTS of bubbles and an overflowing mess!!

-THE WIRE CAGE: Next, remove all the foil around the top of the bottle and loosen the wire cage. Donít remove it until the last moment. Itís there to help prevent accidents.

-USE A TOWEL: Drape a towel over the head of the bottle. This way, if the wine overflows or the cork pops on itís own, the mess will be limited.

-TWIST THE BOTTLE: A common mistake made when opening champagne is popping the cork. Twisting the bottle while you have a solid grip on the cork will make the removal much easier. Do it gently, just until you hear a little pop, then removal the towel with the cork in it and show your guests just how brilliant you really are! (As if they didnít already know.)

The secret is to pour just a bit, about an ounce or so, of the sparkling wine into the glass. Wait for the initial foaming bubbles to subside, then pour again until about two-thirds of the glass is full.

Your hard work has finally paid offÖ
Not too many instructions here. Just one tip: hold the glass by the stem and not the bowl. That way, the champagne will stay chilled longer!!!!