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Champagne or Sparkling Wine: What are you drinking?

Champagne or Sparkling Wine

“Every time you open a bottle of champagne, it’s a celebration, so there’s no better way of starting a celebration than opening a bottle of champagne. Every time you sip it, you’re sipping from all those other celebrations. The joy accumulates over time”

― David Levithan, The Lover’s Dictionary

November is long gone; three more blinks and we will all be anticipating the festive mood of December – brother men and sister women, Christmas is upon us.

Bottle corks will roll on the floor as sparkling bubbles fill our glasses.

But exactly what drink will our bubbles be made of? “Champagne!” Enyinna answered, with the ‘ch’ rolling off his tongue as if it were ‘champion’ he was pronouncing.

Now that is the very first sign he had no idea of what he was about drinking. You can guess I was not surprised when the waitress brought him a bottle of sparkling wine moments later.

It is an age-long question, the difference between champagne and sparkling wine – and though answers have been given, few even remember it.

Apparently champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wines can be called champagne. The big mistake many make is think of champagne as a type of drink just like Vodka, Red Wine or Whiskey. No! Champagne is much more of a geographical drink than just any type of drink.

Champagne comes from the region of Champagne, just outside of Paris in France, and it can only be made using Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier wine grapes. Although some winemakers might also use grapes like Pinot Blanc, Petite Meslier, or Arbane, but these are sparingly used.

For a drink to qualify as champagne, it must not only come from Champagne AOC, it must meet the Champagne appellation standards for wine production, or it is just another non-champagne sparkling wine.

The grape fruits are traditionally hand-picked and pressed into whole clusters without removing the stems. It is then kept for a period of 15 months on lees for a non-vintage crus, or 36 months if a vintage crus is what is desired. Be mindful that too much aging on lees may result in a wine fault.

Non-champagne sparkling wines are simply sparkling wines made in other regions other than Champagne. Many of such climbed upon the commercial success of champagnes to gain relevance in the wine market.

It is not that sparkling wines are not good or as tasty, it is just there is an 1891 treaty that legally reserves the name ‘Champagne’ for only wines produced in the Champagne region and adhering to the traditional wine making process associated with the AOC.

“Waitress, go bring this man a Champagne Brut. Make sure it’s a Champagne Brut” I requested of the dark skinned beauty. Then I turned to Enyinna, “And it is pronounced champagne as in ‘sham’, not champagne like ‘champ’ ”.

So next time it’s hot outside and you decide to have a drink, know what you are drinking. Is it champagne or just another sparkling wine from Ebute Meta?

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