by Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert
Anne’s favorite drink is champagne. When we think about champagne, our thoughts go to the good life—it is elegant, sexy, cool, celebratory, and a luxury for most. Champagne is in a class of its own—there are few alcoholic drinks you can start on early in the morning and not be classified as an alcoholic. Even better, when out, folks think you are special. We toast our successes, christen ships with it and generally celebrate life. So, on the supposed birthday of champagne (August, 4 1693), I thought I’d write about champagne, the good life and travel, in honor of Anne’s favorite drink.
I’m no expert on champagne, or sparkling wine, but like most wine, I really enjoy drinking it. Wine is produced from grapes and the terroir or characteristics of the area (soil and climate are the most important items influencing terroir) in which the grapes are cultivated shapes the taste of the wine. However, wine and champagne differ in how they are made by the wine makers. Without getting too technical, sparking wine is created when the CO2 gas remains in the bottled wine due to a second fermentation. When a wine is fermented in a sealed container during this second fermentation, the CO2 bubbles remain with the wine and are not released until you pop the cork.
We prefer dry wines—brut and extra brut in the lingo of champagne. This term refers to the sweetness of the wine due to the amount of sugar added during the fermentation process. There are 3 main types of champagne. They are 1) prestige cuvee, 2) blanc de noirs and 3) blanc de blanc. Prestige cuvee is a blend wine and the best wine produced by a winery. Blanc de noirs is white wine produced by black or red grapes. Blanc de blanc is white wine produced by white grapes.
Now to the important part—what glass do we drink from? There are two types of champagne glasses—the flute and the coupe. The legend of the creation of the coupe is that it was modeled after a mold of the left breast of Marie Antoinette’s—great story, but probably not true. Experts favor a flute (retains more of the bubbles) but who can argue with the elegant, sophisticated coupe? My advice—use both and drink more champagne and sparkling wine!
A bubbly treat for Anne & Hank on NCL’s Getaway
There are two other fun facts about champagne.
Legend says champagne was invented by a Benedictine Monk, Dom Perignon. There is no doubt he made significant contributions to the production and quality of champagne, but he probably did not invent champagne. Most folks know about him, since the best known of all Champagnes, Dom Perignon, the prestige cuvee from Moet & Chandon, is named in his honor. He supposedly said upon tasting champagne “Come quickly, I am drinking the Stars” but it possibly appeared in a print ad in the late 1800s (thanks Wikipedia).
The world’s best known fictional spy, James Bond, is an avid champagne drinker. Do you know the favorite champagne? The answer is both Bollinger’s and Dom Perignon (we learned this on the trivia quiz on an AmaWaterways Wine cruise).
The Good Life
Life is too short not to enjoy champagne. We all work hard and need to recognize there is a need for balance in our lives. Everybody’s definition of the good life is different, but there are some common threads for most of us. These include sharing time with loved ones, family and friends, acquiring nice clothes, homes, cars and other cool stuff, enjoying good food and drinks, and especially for us, travel to dream destinations to experience other cultures. Most importantly, I think we need to celebrate life to the fullest—slow down a little and smell the roses, as the saying goes.
One way to have the good life, in my humble opinion,—drink more champagne!
Champagne and Travel
There are many ways to enjoy champagne when traveling. Number one for champagne lovers has to be the champagne region of north-eastern France. The area of chalk plains and gentle hills between Paris and Lorraine is the home to the most famous sparkling wines in the world. In fact, by European Union (EU) and most countries of the world, the term champagne to identify a sparkling wine is exclusively reserved to wines produced in the champagne region of France. Although champagne technically only from the champagne region of France, the term is used to describe its cousin, sparking wine worldwide. According to the website About France.com, it is possible to visit 51 champagne cellars around the towns of Reims and Epernay. Besides great wine tours and tastings around Reims, the medieval gothic cathedral, with its exquisite rose window, is the location where the former kings of France were crowned, and a site not to be missed. In Epernay, along with the wine tours, there is a champagne museum and the Abbey of Hautvilliers, where Dom Perignon created his version of champagne.
Another great way is on an ocean cruise or Europe River cruise. On our 12 Europe River cruises, all involve a champagne welcome and farewell. It is truly a great way to start and end your trip.
A Champagne Reception by the Captain, Hotel Manager & Cruise Director on our AmaWaterways Tulip Time River Cruise
Let’s all celebrate champagne! You can be sure Anne & I will drink some today. We also hope this will inspire you to try to visit France’s wine region, or go on a wine cruise and enjoy the good life–we will be glad to help. Please give Hank a call at 713-397-0188 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can help you:
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