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All the Fuss about Fizz

All the Fuss about Fizz

All the Fuss about Fizz

It’s the choice of the rich and famous; the price of bottles runs into the thousands, it’s the favoured celebratory tipple, and is sprayed by victors worldwide. Fizz, bubbly, champers and sparklers are some of the many names for the same thing - fizzy wine. 

I’m talking about Champagne of course, not just your average sparkler and its the benchmark for many wannabe fizzes.

So what’s all the fuss about fizz and why is it that Champagne stands above the rest? I’ve never heard the words “Bring me your best Prosecco” or “I’d prefer the vintage Cava.” More likely than not I’m asked for a “good bottle of Champagne.” 

It’s not that the competition for fizz doesn't exist; there are tons of worthy sparklers. And it’s not that they are too expensive, the price range starts competitively low.

All the Fuzz about Fizz

Is it lack of education with regard to the newcomers in the fizz world or is it weak marketing by fizz makers? More often than not it’s simply a case of “it’s always been that way, it’s the best” and so we choose by reputation.

To understand why Champagne has all the fuss you need to go way back. This isn’t a history lesson but Champagne history is awash with controversy and passion with an ingenious amount of foresight thrown in.

Champagne houses have worked to be where they are today. The brand has many imitators and the region strictly covets the use of its name. To be honest I can’t blame them, they have fought for it, literally. 

Champagne has been made since the 5th century, although not always sparkling. One of the pioneers was the Monk Dom Perignon who reportedly said “come quickly I’m tasting stars” after tasting his first bottle fermented sparkler. Said that a few times myself!

All the Fuss about Fizz

In the 17th c the region’s proximity to Paris became popular with French nobility and royalty. Wine makers were keen to associate their wines within these circles and used inventive labelling and packaging to gain popularity. Houses such as Krug, Bollinger and Pommery evolved.

Champagne became the location for Royal coronations of the Monarchy remaining that way for many years. It was during coronations that the best Champagne was drunk to celebrate. Champagne became the drink of Kings and it’s value escalated. Usually only available to nobility, the market was growing to include the wealthy middle class. More Champagne houses grew on the back of this. E.g. Moet, Roederer, Piper Heidsieck and Tattinger.

The French Revolution in the late 1700’s saw French nobility ostracised and many had to flee the country to maintain their safety. Ports were blockaded and traffic in and out of the country was limited. These were turbulent times for the rich.

In order to maintain sales, producers came up with ingenious ways to smuggle wines to their customers and maintain their status. These covert operations continued successfully for many years.

 

An example of which was Charles-Henri Heidsieck who, during Napolean’s invasion of Russia in 1812, was determined to make sales. On horseback, he followed the French Imperial Army to battle in Moscow armed with cases of his Champagne. He was prepared to sell the champagne and do business with whoever won. It was the Russians, who drank the Champagne to celebrate their victory. Heidsicek’s actions were testimony to the drive many wine makers had to keep their status.

Despite both world wars the production of Champagne never stopped, it moved underground into caves. This led to more favourable aging conditions and, luckily, better wines.

What is interesting is that Champagne houses targeted nobility and royalty from day one. This could possibly be one of the first examples of successful direct marketing in wine history.

All the Fuzz about Fizz

The “male dominated” heavier wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy left a gap in the market, and Champagne houses (Laurent Perrier among them), realising this, decided to change their ad direction to attract females. It, of course worked and so champers started to become popular with women, especially rich ones. 

Selective marketing didn't stop there. There have been political labels, political marketing and all sorts of other campaigns but if you look closely it’s nearly always a prestigious event that ends up having Champagne attached to it. Selective and proficient indeed.

So, as far as the name goes, Champagne deserves to covet it. The more famous and historic houses have worked hard at branding and marketing and I don’t think anyone can take that away especially given their history.

Today, there doesn't’t need a special occasion for us to drink Champagne, it is widely available. With over 200 million bottles produced in France every year and demand  so high, the AOC (Appelation d’Origin Controlee) are considering expanding the zone to facilitate more production. Is this a good thing or bad thing?

So is it worth all the fuss over the fizz?

It’s a personal thing, you either like the bubbles or you don’t but there’s a Champagne style for everyone, some being heavy and layered and some being light and fresh. Vintage champagnes are a different story, much like a vintage wine and some deserve the price tag that goes along with them. Some unfortunately are over priced.

Personally I like Champagne, it makes me smile!

Believe me gentlemen, if you buy a lady a glass or bottle of Champagne it works every time!

Drink This: 

Bollinger - Has to be done!

Bollinger
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Comments

There really is something just so special about Champagne. I loved reading about the history. I also loved reading about your life, what a brave and inspiring soul you are!

My next WSET unit is on sparkling wine and I am so looking forward to it :)

di's picture

Thanks Nicole - good luck with the course, they only get better the deeper you go!

Oh yes, I am a huge fizz fan! My lovely Mr Wino, after ten years, surprised me with a trip to the beach and a bottle of Pol Roger Winston Churchhill - then he asked me to marry him! Of course, I saw stars, and said yes! Fizz tickles my fancy in all it's styles, prosecco, cremant, methode traditionelle... cheers! Thank you for linking up through the #WINENOT linky party!

di's picture

Thanks Louise - i'll be linking up again that's for sure, thanks for doing it.
 

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