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Are you living the Champagne Lifestyle?

It’s highly unlikely that any of us will get to launch a ship or to stand on the podium at the end of a Formula One race. However I expect we have all had the pleasure on more than one occasion to sample the delights of champagne and in the spirit (pun intended) of this party drink, I thought I would take a look back at its origins, production and recent trends in the popularity of ‘bubbly’.

Firstly, there are rules – rules on the varieties of grapes, where they are grown, harvested and produced and how the wine is stored and marketed. Let’s start with a few Champagne facts:
  • Champagne is exclusively produced within a specific Champagne delimited region in France.
  • Champagne is made from three authorised grapes – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
  • There are strict limits on the grape yield per hectare and the amount of juice (known as ‘must’) is restricted to 102 litres per 160 kilos of grapes.
  • There are about 1.5 billion bottles of champagne in stock in the world
  • Over 300 million bottles are produced each year from 306 Champagne houses
  • The vineyard needs to have dedicated wine-making and storage facilities allocated to Champagne.
  • The wine-making process is called ‘Methode Champenoise’.
  • The wine is stored for a minimum of 15 months before shipping.
  • France retains over 52% of production
    The following list shows the main countries which import champagne:
    1. United Kingdom  – 34,153,662 bottles
    2. United States of America  – 20,508,784 bottles
    3. Germany – 11,907,887 bottles
    4. Japan – 11,799,426 bottles
    5. Belgium –  9,210,659 bottles
    6. Australia – 8,110,106 bottles
    7. Italy  – 6,359,572 bottles
    8. Switzerland – 5,410,288 bottles
    9. Spain – 3,909,345 bottles
    10. Sweden – 2,924,854 bottles

    Source: http://www.champagne.fr/en/champagne-economy/key-market-statistics


    Sizes of Champagne Bottle


    In your local wine merchant or supermarket the usual bottle contains 75ml but if you are feeling thrifty there are half and even quarter bottles. For a party, it’s worth considering larger bottles. Here are the main sizes:

    Bottle                       Size              Equivalent
    Magnum                 150cl           2 Standard Bottles      Serves Approx. 12
    Jeroboam                300cl           4 Standard Bottles      Serves Approx. 24
    Methuselah            600cl            8 Standard Bottles      Serves Approx. 48
    Salmanazar            900cl           12 Standard Bottles     Serves Approx. 72
    Balthazar               1200cl          16 Standard Bottles     Serves Approx. 96
    Nebuchadnezzar   1500cl         20 Standard Bottles      Serves Approx. 120

    In terms of different champagnes there are eight main styles each with different characteristics: Brut, Rose, Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs, Zero Dosage, Sec, Demi Sec and R.D. for detailed information on each style visit The Champagne Company website: https://thechampagnecompany.com/champagne.

    For those of you who are keen on a cocktail, I have included brief instructions for 10 of the most popular using champagne as the main ingredient.


    1. Kir royale


    Adding blackcurrant liqueur to Champagne creates a Kir Royale which adds a touch of sweetness to dry champagne. Add 1 part crème de cassis to 5 parts Champagne.


    2. Champagne Cocktail


    Place a sugar cube in a chilled champagne flute with 2 or 3 dashes of Angostura’s or Paychaud’s bitters. Then top up the glass with Brut Champagne and a squeeze of lemon on top.


    3. Air Mail


    Mix 2 parts of rum with 5 parts of Brut champagne and the juice of half a lime and a teaspoon of honey in a chilled cocktail shaker filled with crushed ice cubes. Pour unstrained into a hi-ball glass and top up with champagne.

    4. Bucks Fizz or Mimosa


    Fill a champagne flute half to two-thirds with freshly-squeezed orange juice and top up with Brut Champagne.


    5. Black Velvet


    Half-fill a hi-ball glass with stout and top up slowly with Champagne. Stir gently with glass or plastic rod.


    6. Barbotage


    Pour measures of cognac and Grand Marnier into a champagne flute, top up with Champagne


    7. Champagne Punch


    In a saucepan combine a bottle of white wine, 6 cloves and four cinnamon sticks in a pan and squeeze in the juice of 1 lemon and then add the rest of the lemon. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and cool completely.
    Place a block of ice in a punch bowl. Pour in the spice/wine mixture, 2 bottles of champagne, sugar to taste and 475ml of orange juice and 240ml of pineapple juice. Stir gently and serve.


    8. Atomic Champagne Cocktail


    Stir equal measures of vodka, brandy and sherry with crushed ice and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and Brut champagne


    9. French 75


    Combine 4 parts London dry gin with 1 of lemon juice and 1 tsp of caster sugar in a chilled cocktail shaker filled with crushed ice cubes. Strain into a hi-ball glass half filled with crushed ice and top up the glass with champagne


    10. Bellini


    Combine the puree of two ripe, peeled and stoned peaches with chilled champagne.

    Champagne launches ships and airplanes

    The world’s famous ships have been launched with the cracking on the bow of a bottle of champagne, a practice copied at the inauguration of the famous Concorde aircraft. In 2014, the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton christened the cruise ship, Royal Princess in Southampton with this age-old traditional ceremony smashing a bottle of Moet et Chandon against the hull. You can watch the video:

    Probably the most unlikely place to witness a bottle of bubbly is on the top of a mountain but this is exactly what Pierre Mazeaud did when he cracked open a bottle of Champagne at the top of Everest.

    The popularity of Prosecco, Cava and sparkling wine may have dented the quaffing of champagne but when it comes to those really important events there’s nothing quite like the real thing. I was treated to a beautiful bottle of Moet & Chandon rose Brut imperial champagne for my recent birthday, thanks to my friend Fiona.


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