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How Champagne gets its celebratory sparkle

How Champagne gets its celebratory sparkle

On New Year’s Eve and Day we most likely will be toasting with a glass of bubbly.

There are many drinks that will put a little fizz in the glass, but today’s focus is on the most famous, Champagne. It begins the same as any other wine: grapes are picked, pressed and fermented. Then the magic begins with the blending. The winemaker will taste separately fermented vats from individual vineyards to create the ideal recipe. Many consider this an art rather than a skill.

The carefully blended wine is then bottled along with a small addition of yeast and sugar. This crucial step creates a second fermentation resulting in a naturally carbonated wine. The yeast feed on the sugar, and the tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide that remain are trapped in the wine.

But the process isn’t over.

This wine will then be left on its “lees” (dead yeast) for a few weeks, or in some quality Champagnes, even months. This gives the wine time to absorb the yeasty, rich aromas that give Champagne its unique flavor we love so much. The next step is a bit of a magic trick — removing the tiny yeast particles without getting rid of the bubbles. To do this, the bottles are arranged in hinged wooden racks in cool, dark cellars and are slowly inverted neck down. For about two months each individual bottle (sometimes up to 40,000 bottles a day) will be turned by hand. As the orientation of the bottle changes, the yeast particles settle in the neck of the bottle.

In the final step, the necks of the bottles containing the dead yeast sediment are put into a freezing solution. This ice plug is shot out of the bottle known as “disgorgement” and then topped with a “dosage,” a mixture — usually a small amount of sugar — to replace the missing volume. Finally, the bottles are closed with the wire and cork.

As you ponder the price of amazing bubbly, don’t forget how much love and attention went into the bottle along with the handcrafted spirit behind this artisan craft.


  • NV Pol Roger Brut Reserve, France (about $64 retail)


  • Perrier-Jouet Fleur de Champagne, France (about $195 retail)
Champagne trivia to impress friends

Champagne trivia to impress friends

It’s becoming somewhat of an inside joke among my friends to exchange tips of our trades. Of course I am one to barter wine information for thought-provoking conversations in medicine, food, agriculture, law, finance and just about all life offers. Over the past several weeks of holiday celebrations, many of the questions asked of me were about Champagne. So, with the celebratory theme sure to be a part of next week’s chats I searched out a few conversation starters involving Champagne that you may want to use.

  • The pressure in a bottle of Champagne is 70 to 90 pounds per square inch. That is three times the average amount of pressure in your car tire. This is not just a notable piece of trivia but a dangerous fact to keep in mind when opening a bottle.
  • Legend has it that Marilyn Monroe at least once took a bath in Champagne, using 350 bottles to fill her bathtub. That’s 262.5 liters, which would fill an average bath of 270 liters to the top. Since the average woman would displace around 50 liters of liquid it would seem either Marilyn wasted 66 or so bottles of Champagne or she was in a very big bath.
  • Gout de Diamants’ Taste of Diamonds Champagne was released with a price tag of $1.8 million. The bottle was adorned with Swarovski crystals in the center of a diamond-shaped pewter design resembling a Superman logo. It was a limited edition bottle designed by Alexander Amosu and was one of the most expensive bottles of bubbly in the world.
  • If you find yourself in need of instructions to build a Champagne flute cascade for your New Year’s party, here’s what you’ll need: Base level — 60 glasses, Level one — 30 glasses, Level two — 10 glasses, Level three (top) — 4 glasses.
  • On average, 28,000 bottles of Champagne are served at Wimbledon each year.
  • How many standard 750-mL bottles’ contents would fit in these unique bottle sizes? Nebuchadnezzar (20 bottles), Balthazar (16 bottles), Salmanazar (12 bottles) Methuselah (8 bottles) Jeroboam (4 bottles) Magnum (2 bottles)
  • For my technically scientific friends: The patterns and bubbles in the glass are a vibration rate of the gas trapped at the nucleation point and the growth rate of the bubbles outside. There are actual teams of experts offering complex equations to explain this differential pattern.

And now here’s what to drink while you’re impressing your friends with your newfound Champagne trivia.


  • NV Lucien Albrecht Rose Cremant d’Alsace, France (about $21 retail)


  • NV Piper Heidsieck Brut Reims, France (about $40 retail)