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Dom Perignon

Dom Perignon

It’s no surprise that National Champagne Day is on New Year’s Eve.  But, how did it come to be associated with the holiday? 

Originally, Champagne wines were “still” or non-carbonated.  Barreled and usually consumed within a year, the yeasts lay dormant during the winter months.  However, with increased production, more wine meant sitting longer in barrels as the seasons warmed thereby reactivating the yeast.  If you know about fermentation, you know that yeast produces carbon dioxide.  So, these long-barreled wines gradually gained a sparkling, bubbly quality.

The man on the left (Dom Perignon) was the person responsible for a few important milestones in the history of Champagne.  First, he started bottling these wines instead of leaving them in barrels.  He also came up with a way to cork the bottle and secure it with heavy string.  King Louis XV eventually decreed that all Champagne had to be bottled, and other French wines had to remain in barrels.

With the novel effervescence, Champagne caught on in a big way in Europe and eventually the world.  At first it was out of reach of the middle and lower classes simply due to price.  Many bottles were broken, exploded or leaked, so that it was often merely good luck that bottles arrived safe and sound in shops around the globe.  This drove the price up.  The noble wealthy being habitual partiers, of course bought plenty of Champagne for their private functions.  By the time of the industrial revolution however, the nouveau riche wanted their share of the fun and began buying bottles for special occasions; weddings, anniversaries and of course, New Year’s Eve.

Today, almost anyone can buy a bottle of sparkling wine, many good ones are made in California, Spain and Italy.  But, to taste true Champagne, you must buy it from France.  Expect to pay in the low to mid three figures for a Vintage Champagne, or pick up a non-vintage bottle for under $40. Cheers!

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