Champagne is the universal drink for celebration. Graduated college? Pop open a bottle. Celebrating New Year’s Eve? You know Champagne is involved. Special occasions just wouldn’t be the same without a fresh bottle of bubbly. But there’s a whole world of history and know-how behind both producing and serving Champagne that most eager drinkers just don’t know much about.
Like, how is Champagne made? Where do those prized grapes come from? And why are there international laws governing this one type of booze? In sum, what makes Champagne so special?
Turns out, there’s a lot about Champagne that’s cause for celebration. And not just because it gets you drunk faster than any other drink (even a shot!).
Champagne is centuries-old, and the industry has worked really hard to maintain its celebrity. It was invented in the Champagne region of France (hence the name) and has been a delicacy ever since kings started to use Champagne to celebrate their coronation.
The Champagne region, including quaint towns such as Epernay and Reims, is quite small. But Champagne production is huge. Beneath the acres of vineyards, there are thousands of underground cellars and caverns storing millions of bottles of aging bubbly. As residents often say, “Reims is a piece of cheese.” Like Swiss cheese, the land is filled with holes. But unlike Swiss cheese, which gets its holes from a strange source, Reims’ caverns come from clay quarries carved in the Middle Ages.
There are approximately 15,000 sparkling wine producers packed in the region. Some of these producers are called “growers,” meaning that they are small, often family-owned businesses. Others are called Champagne “houses,” which produce a majority of the Champagne distributed around the world. These are likely the Champagne brands you’ve heard of, the largest one being Moët & Chandon.
But all Champagne has a few things in common — and some little-known quirks that make this dazzling drink even more special.