Sprayed after sporting victories, sipped at weddings, and smashed at boat launches, champagne has a sparkling reputation. It’s the drink for toasting celebration, victory, happiness and health, and it’s been around since the 17th century
To mark World Champagne Day on October 18, we’re celebrating this wonderful celebratory drop by sharing these 10 fun facts about champagne.
To be fair, we’ll probably also have a glass or two as well.
1. If it’s not brewed in Champagne, you can’t call it champagne
Created through a double fermentation process known as ‘méthode champenoise’, champagne generally contains three grape varieties: chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier (a red grape related to pinot noir). The result? A wine with a characteristic sparkle and plenty of bubbles. Many people use the terms ‘champagne’ and ‘sparkling wine’ interchangeably, but technically, only wine produced in the Champagne region of northeastern France can claim the lofty title. In many countries, it’s actually illegal to label any sparkling wine champagne unless it’s produced there, and crafted in line with the strict rules of the region.
2. Champagne was probably created by accident
The region of Champagne happens to be the most northerly wine-producing province in France, and chilly winter weather routinely interrupted the fermentation process back in the 17th century. Sometimes this resulted in a double fermentation, leading to a vibrant bubbly end product. This was seen as a disaster by the wine-makers of the time – not least because the pressure in the bottles often caused them to explode. For this reason, champagne was originally known as ‘le vin du diable’ – the Devil’s wine.
3. Champagne bottles have to be turned every two days during fermentation
In order to get a crystal-clear final result, champagne bottles are turned and agitated regularly in order to send sediments into the neck of the bottle. This process, known as ‘riddling’, involves rotating the bottle by stages – either 1/8 or 1/4 turn at a time. Modern advances in technology mean this can be done with relative ease by machine, but some brands still stick to the traditional method. A skilled ‘remueur’ (bottle turner) can handle around 40,00 bottles per day!
4. Champagne flutes aren’t the best glasses to enjoy champagne in
It’s true that bubbly will stay more bubbly in a flute – particularly compared to old-fashioned coupe glasses, which lose their bubbles particularly fast due to the wide, flat shape. However, flutes trap aromas as well as bubbles, meaning you’re missing out on a sizeable proportion of the champagne’s tantalising scents and flavours. Experts say the best shaped glass for enjoying champagne is similar to a brandy glass – wide at the base, and narrow at the top. You may have noticed that many brands have started making their own glasses in this shape, to ensure their champagnes can be experienced to the full.
5. Before you pop the cork, the average bottle of champagne has more pressure than the average car tyre
The double fermentation process used to create champagne also produces a lot of carbon dioxide, leading to an internal pressure of around 5-6 atmospheres. That’s the equivalent of 5kg of weight on every square centimetre, and the reason champagne bottles are made with such thick, heavy glass. This level of pressure also tends to launch the cork at an impressive pace, hence the need for the wire muselet holding it in place. A cork can leave a champagne bottle at speeds of up to 80kph – fast enough to shatter glass!
6. Approximately 28,000 bottles of champagne are served at Wimbledon each year
While the world’s tennis superstars knock the ball back and forth at eye-watering speed, the crowds at Wimbledon knock back a whopping 28,000 bottles of champagne. The Wimbledon rules of entry state that all bottles of champagne must be opened prior to being taken into the stands, but flying corks and loud pops still routinely disrupt play.
7. In a 750ml bottle of champagne, there are 49 million bubbles
There’s something quite mesmerising about watching the endless lines of bubbles stream elegantly upwards in a glass of champagne. A regular-sized glass emits about 30 bubbles every second, and they should only be coming from the bottom of the glass. If they're coming from the sides, it means the glass isn’t particularly clean!
8. There’s a bottle of champagne worth over 2 million dollars
Luxury champagne brand Goût de Diamants has created the most expensive bottle of champagne in the world – 2013 ‘Taste of Diamonds’. With a logo crafted from 18-carat gold and featuring a flawless deep-cut 19 carat white diamond, it’s worth an incredible $2.07 million. Could it possibly be worth it? Well, it’s received plenty of accolades, including being named the best-tasting wine of 2012 by Champagne Business News. If you’re curious about what a multi-million dollar bottle of champagne tastes like, it’s said to be floral and refreshing, with a creamy texture and a light elegant finish.
9. Rumour has it that Marilyn Monroe once took a bath in champagne
Diamonds might be a girl’s best friend, but iconic actress Marilyn Monroe was particularly partial to the sparkle of champagne. She was well known for her love of Dom Pérignon, and according to urban legend she experimented with her favourite tipple in some wonderfully decadent ways. It’s said she once took a bath in champagne, and it took 350 bottles to fill the tub to the brim.
10. Drinking champagne (in moderation) has scientifically proven health benefits
Research from the University of Columbia found that champagne contains proteins that are beneficial for short term memory. A further study by Reading University in 2013 showed that three glasses of bubbles per week can positively impact memory, and research in Pittsburgh showed that the risk of developing dementia was almost halved for people who drank ‘moderate’ amounts of champagne. It even tends to have fewer calories than other types of wine, making it an excellent choice all round.
When you toast your health, you’re literally giving it a boost – just one more reason to celebrate World Champagne Day with a glass in your hand.