Celebrate the arrival of a new year – with Champagne!

One of Champagne's most notable features is its distinct effervescence, which was once viewed as its biggest flaw!

First the basics! "Champagne" is a type of sparkling wine that must be produced in the province of Champagne in northwestern France. It earned its AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) in 1927, but this effervescent beverage has an even older (and quite intriguing!) history.

Evidence of Champagne production dates back to the 1st century A.D. (a time when Romans lived in the region!). The discovery of this sparkling wine was somewhat of an accident – and, apparently, an annoyance for many winemakers. After harvest, vintners typically bottled wine and stored it away during the winter to ferment.

However, the low temperatures in this particular region actually halted the wine’s fermentation process until spring. When the bottles warmed up in the spring, a second fermentation period would be triggered. This second fermentation period lent this wine its unique, fizzy composition. In fact, the bubbly constitution of this unique wine became somewhat dangerous for the winemakers, as the buildup of carbonation in the bottles often caused them to explode without warning!

For centuries the sparkling wine of Champagne was viewed as undesirable. The wine-drinking public of the era was much more interested in the rich red wines being produced in nearby Burgundy. In fact, this unique bubbly wine from Champagne was seen as more of a novelty than a treasure – that is until members of 17th and 18th century French royalty embraced and celebrated the wine's rare and delightful bubbly composition, making it a popular choice for celebrations among the European elite. No surprise, during this period many of today's most famous Champagne Houses were founded.

The Wine Growing Region

Champagne has been recognized globally as a renowned wine-growing region since the Middle Ages. Champagne is also one of the most northern wine-growing regions in the world. The cooler temperatures of the region make it difficult to grow grapes, and the grapes that do grow in Champagne are very high in acidity.

In Champagne, there are five wine-growing districts: Aube, Côte des Blancs, Côte de Sézanne, Montagne du Reims, and Vallée de la Marne. The largest city and capital of Champagne is Reims, which is located only 144 km away from Paris. This famous city was known for being the coronation site of French kings.

A Monk and a Widow

Many recognize the names Dom Pérignon and Veuve Cliquot – as both are ubiquitous when it comes to fine Champagne, but who are these immortalized names of sparkling French wine?

Dom Pérignon

Dom Pérignon was a Benedictine Monk and is fondly known as the “Father of Champagne.” He didn’t discover Champagne, but he did take a great interest in the wine and pioneered numerous techniques and production methods that improved the shelf-life of Champagne. For example, to cut down on exploding bottles, he introduced corks held in place with hemp string – and thicker bottles that could better withstand the pressure of spring fermentation.

Veuve Cliquot

The French word “veuve” means widow in English. Widow Cliquot played a major role in upping the popularity of Champagne in royal courts across Europe, helping to establish it as a drink for nobility. She is credited with creating the first known Champagne vintage in 1810 and she also invented a process for clarifying Champagne.

Champagne Recommendation from OIC

Charles Le Bel Inspiration 1818 Brut

Chardonnay 37%, Pinot Meunier 30%, Pinot Noir 33% (Reserve wine 70%) – This Champagne is a wonderful choice for toasting any celebration. The golden color is accented with pinpoint crystalline bubbles and its collection of classic aromas includes brioche, almond, pear, and butter. It features an exquisite touch, marked by mineral notes and a fine balance between acidity and roundness with hints of citrus fruits and a lingering finish.

Available at OIC by the glass or by the bottle.

Visit Osteria IL Centro this holiday season and explore the Champagne selections of OIC's Wine Spectator Award of Excellence winning Reserve Wine List!

Click here to book your OIC reservation!