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Publication: I'm Not Martha
Thinking about champagne.

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         I'M NOT MARTHA - Tuesday, February 20, 2007
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Hi! I'm Lizzy!!  and I'm not Martha!!!

I got thinking about champagne.  I think Valentine's Day sort 
of got it started. Flowers, chocolates and Champagne are all 
a part of the Cupid's dreams.  But what about champagne?  Is 
it just bad white wine that has been bubble-ized as so many 
insist?  Or is there mystique and merit?  Is it fragile...
turning bad in a short time...or does champagne have a second 
life?

Though many people use the term "champagne" to designate all  
sparkling wines, in truth Champagne is a specific type of 
French sparkling wine.

For me...I love it.  It is far more than a drink for festive  
occasions.  I have it around just for me...and anyone who 
happens to be around.  I have a favorite in the pricey 
category: Louis Roederer, Cristal.  Wonderful tiny threads 
of bubbles rising to the top, and a taste that sends me into 
reverie. Veuve Clicquot, La Grande Dame is another in the 
stratosphere but fabulous.

For a middle to lower middle price range I suggest Schramsberg. 
A wonderful sparkling from California.  Terrific wine.  You 
can get a fine bottle for $25.

Now for what gets poured here casually: Proseco, the fabulous 
sprakler from Italy.  It is dry, not sweet like so many 
Italian bubblies.  It costs about $12 a bottle is quite nice.

Now that I have whetted your desire for bubbles...

Dom Perignon a monk that came up with this new wine was 
ordered by his superiors at the Abbey of Hautvillers to get 
rid of the bubbles since the  pressure in the bottles caused 
many to explode in the cellar.  I can just see that! What a 
giggle.  Production continued however...probably an act of 
contrition came into play somewhere. In amy event cellar 
workers would have to wear a heavy mask that looked something 
like a catcher's mask to prevent them from being injured by 
exploding bottles. And the heat caused by one bottle exploding 
could set off a chain that could wipe out 20 to 90 percent of 
the stock.  The mystery of fermentation and carbonic gas be-
witched all and some called champagne "The Devil's Wine".  
Glad we've gotten past that though I suppose many become 
Devil-may-care under the influence.

Champagne is ready to drink when it is released from the 
suppliers and does not improve with age. Non-vintage 
Champagne has a shelf life of two to three years if stored 
in a cool dark place and on its side. That being said I have 
a real fondness for "Old Ladies"...champagne that is well 
past the prime drinking range.  I love them.  The wine has 
a distinctly different flavor that is hard to explain. 
Maybe the best is mature.  It is not frisky but robust and 
unique...just like women of indeterminate age!

Keeping champagne in the fridge will make it go bad. The cork 
gets affected by the temp and gas escapes. Some of the great 
"champers" can hold up to 50 years sometimes even more but 
stored out of direct sunlight, vibration, heat and obviously 
lying down.

If the wine has not turned or gone into a second fermentation, 
you will have a treat. You'll know right away if the wine has 
not stood up to time.  Just toss it and say goodbye to a fine 
lady past her prime. In general the English like bottle-aged 
champagne with its flavours of toast and mushrooms, and the 
French prefer young champagne with brighter fruit and acidity.


P.S. If you're interested we now have a forum. You can post 
comments on this and recent issues at... 

Not Martha forum


So what makes it bubbly?

An initial burst of effervescence occurs when the champagne 
contacts the dry glass on pouring. These bubbles may form on 
imperfections in the glass.

Champagne is usually served in a champagne flute, whose 
characteristics include a long stem with a tall, narrow bowl 
and opening. The wider, flat champagne coupe; which has a 
saucer-shaped bowl and is commonly associated with Champagne, 
is no longer preferred by connoisseurs because it does not 
preserve the bubbles and aroma of the wine as well. The lore 
of the coupe is that it was the shape, a mold, of Josephine's 
(you know...Napoleon's other half) breast!

Alternatively, when tasting Champagne, a big red wine glass 
(i.e. a glass for Bordeaux) can be used, as the aroma spreads 
better in the larger volume of the glass. Glasses should not 
be overfilled: flutes should be filled only to 2/3 of the 
glass, and big red wine glasses not more than 1/2 of the glass.

Champagne is always served cold, and is best drunk at a tem-
perature of around 43 to 48 °F (7 to 9 °C for my metric 
readers). Often the bottle is chilled in a bucket of ice and 
water before and after opening. Champagne buckets are made 
specifically for this purpose, and often have a larger volume 
than standard wine-cooling buckets (to accommodate the larger 
bottle, and more water and ice).


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Now one last thing...all the sizes of bottles have a special 
name. Always good to know! You may end up winning Who Wants 
to be a Millionaire or Jeopardy.

Champagne is sold in eleven different bottle sizes:

*Huitieme: eighth bottle and barely a glass full.
*Quart: as served by airlines.
*Demi Bouteille: half bottle (about 3 glasses).
*Standard: 750ml bottle (about 5 glasses).
*Magnum: double bottle size (about 10 glasses).
*Jeroboam: equivalent to four bottles (about 20 glasses)is 
  sprayed at end of F1 Grands Prix.
*Rehoboam: equivalent to six bottles (about 30 glasses).
*Mathusalem: eight bottles (about 40 glasses).
*Salmanazar: twelve bottles (about 60 glasses).
*Balthazar: sixteen bottles (about 80 glasses).
*Nebuchodonesor: twenty bottles (about 100 glasses).

So put this in a safe place so your bubbly doesn't fizzle!

Lizzy

Questions...Comments...? email Lizzy


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