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Champagne! In victory one deserves it; in defeat one needs it - Napoleon Bonaparte
Champagne gets its bubbles by secondary fermentation in the bottle, which has to be stronger than for a still wine to withstand the pressure (of the order of 90 psi - about three times that in a car tyre) that the process creates. The yeast in the bottle has to be removed before the latter can finally be corked. During its maturation, the bottle is slowly rotated and inclined (a fraction each day, a process called remuage and traditionally done by the remuer) so that the yeast and other particulate matter accumulates at the top of the neck of the bottle. The neck is then frozen, providing a temporary seal, the yeast is discarded and the pure champagne is sealed with its ultimate cork.
Champagne must come from the Champagne region of France, centred on Rheims and Epernay. When we first started to take bubbly, wines with similar characteristics made by similar processes were described as Méthode Champenoise but even that was banned in 1994. So manufacturers outside France use their own distinct words to describe such sparkling wines - Cava (Spain), Spumante (Italy), Cap Classique (South Africa) and Sekt (Germany) - not forgetting Sparkling Wine (Australia, New Zealand and the USA)! In our humble opinion these (particularly Cava) offer fantastic value, especially when compared with the sometimes overpriced French product.
Champagne marketing has inspired some splendid advertisements and posters, particularly in the Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles. Brands featured here include Laurent-Perrier, Piper-Heidsieck, Dom Perignon (it's a myth that he invented champagne, but he was important in the development of the process), Möet et Chandon, Perrier-Jouet and Heidsieck (no Bolly, our favourite, yet!).
Of course, if any city is associated with champagne, it's Paris, and we have many a champagne picture from that great culinary capital, complete with charming ladies who clearly know how to enjoy themselves and their escorts. Let's face it, if you deserve a celebratory drink, champagne in Paris is hard to beat!
We should always use alcohol responsibly, but good champagne is one drink on which you can get blasted with minimal hangover risk. The classic food to be eaten with champagne is oysters; some of the best of which come from Whitstable in Kent. If, like us, you find that oysters taste like briney slime, we recommend smoked Scottish salmon on buttered brown toast with a squeeze of lemon. Especially on Christmas morning. Just after you opened those wrapped champagne pictures!