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Speaking Volumes: A bubbly history of why we celebrate with champagne

Pop! Fizz! Clink!

As the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31, people around the world will be popping bottles of champagne to toast to the new year.

This fizzy libation is a celebratory staple for holidays and special occasions, but especially New Year’s Eve.

According to The International Business Times, 25 percent of all champagne is sold between Christmas and New Year’s.

It is important to note, however, not all sparkling wine is champagne. The name refers only to that from the Champagne region in northern France.

The French established this rule with the 1891 Treaty of Madrid, and again with the Treaty of Versailles.

In the United States, only wines that were granted the right to use the word champagne prior to 2006, for example Korbel, can have it on their bottles, and only if accompanied by the location origin, i.e. California.

Champagne has an interesting history. The first known vineyard in the Champagne area was planted by the Romans, and the region’s reputation for wine arose in 987 when Hugh Capet was crowned King of France and served local wines at the coronation banquet.

However, the first wines of the region did not resemble what we know as champagne today. The first wines from the region were reds, comparable to a Burgundy.

Sparkling wine was not a sought-after beverage; in fact, the fizzy quality that is synonymous with champagne today was an error that winemakers tried to correct.

Due to the climate of the region, imprecise temperature controls would often cause a second fermentation to start after the wine was bottled, causing them to explode, frequently taking out entire cellars in a chain reaction.

It was Benedictine monk Dom Perignon who switched from wood stoppers to corks, as well as using thicker glass bottles, as he worked tirelessly during the mid-1600’s to perfect the natural process of pressing red grapes to collect white juice for his wines.

While Perignon is often wrongly attributed as the inventor of champagne, he did help standardize production methods before his death in 1715.

Ruinart established the first champagne house in 1729, and by the early 1800’s, champagne was royalty’s beverage of choice, and was being drunk in all of Europe’s finest palaces.

While today champagne is enjoyed by the middle class all over the world, its lasting reputation as the drink of kings and queens is still true. The current most expensive champagne is Taste of Diamonds, valued at over $2 million a bottle.

Your local library has some interesting books on champagne.

For more information about its unique history, check out the e-book “Champagne: How the World’s Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times” (2010) by Don and Petie Kladstrup.

Mystery lovers might enjoy “The Champagne Conspiracy” (2016), a fiction book by Ellen Crosby that delves into prohibition-era Washington D.C.

Looking for the perfect champagne cocktail recipe? Check out “101 Champagne Cocktails” (2011) by Kim Haasarud, available as an e-book.

When you’re toasting to the year ahead, just remember what F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said- “Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.”

Kaitlin Crockett is a librarian II and assistant supervisor at the Palmetto Library. Speaking Volumes, written by Manatee County Public Library System staff members, is published each Sunday in the Bradenton Herald.

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