It’s in the Bubbles: How to Identify Quality Champagne

Olivia Meadows
3 min readMar 10, 2023

When bottles pop celebration commences, and sparkling wine fanatics know there’s nothing like that distinct sound that signal a celebration is underway. I mean think about it. Does anyone drink champagne during an unfortunate event?

The bubbly wine reserved for great times was first popularized by a 17th century French monk, whose tall tale involves an employee of the Abbey Hautvillers, named Dom Perignon. Legend, says Dom opened a bottle of wine before the fermentation process was complete, thus discovering the fizz.

Records show that Champagne was produced long before Dom Perignon’s discovery, possibly as early as the 1500s, but since no one seems to have consistent truth about who discovered the sparkling bubbly, let us talk about what we do know.

· Cuvee’ is the base selected for wine or champagne. The best cuvee is said to originate from the Champagne regions of France and is usually the first 2k liters or so of grape juice obtained from 4,000 kilograms of grapes (a marc).

· After assemblage, or the blending of the wine, the tirage or second fermentation process begins. It is here where sugar, yeast and yeast nutrients are added, and the solution is sealed in a capped bottle where it continues to slowly ferment (age). It is in this stage when the brew produces alcohol and carbon dioxide.

During the aging process yeast cells die and the fermentation is complete.

The champagne is allowed to continue aging for a select period, with the best vintage said to age from five or more years.

· Non-Vintage — Is a blend of grapes used from different years. If the wine or champagne bottle does not display a vintage year, it is generally considered to be non-vintage. Non-vintage doesn’t negate quality. In most cases, non-vintage produces a consistent taste.

· Vintage — Are grapes primarily grown and harvested from a particular year. Vintage doesn’t necessarily mean the champagne is old. It just means that it’s made from grapes collected from one single year. Vintage wines are considered a custom wine, meaning the taste or blend will likely never be duplicated, which makes it special. For that reason, individuals searching for a unique champagne will request a…

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