Pop + Pour: Champagne Gala

It was worth braving the winter wonderland that was Manhattan on Saturday evening to get to the wine room of ICE Culinary, where Richard Vayda, Director of Wine Studies at ICE Culinary, led a Champagne Gala.

It was the perfect class for those of us who were interested in getting some real education on this bubbly beverage just in time to pop some corks for the holiday season! While nothing can compare to actually being there for the full experience of tasting great wines with someone who is arguably the best in the business, there were many great bits of knowledge I learned along the way that I can share with you:

There are three methods of making champagne in varying degrees of expense:

  • Carbonation - adding the bubbles by injecting nitrogen after it's already been made into wine
  • Charmat - making the champagne in large batches and then bottling it afterward
  • Champagne - bubbles develop naturally in the actual bottle you're drinking from

When opening the bottle, you should hold the base on your hip at a severe angle. This way, there is a lot of surface area exposed when the air rushes into the bottle, which prevents spillage.

The pressure in a bottle of champagne is equivalent to that of a bus tire!

Unlike other wines, champagne is almost always a blend of grapes, rather than grapes all from one harvest field. This gives champagne its complex flavor. While some people do sell champagne of a specific vintage, many in the industry find this to be a less desirable product.

Champagne was more of an "accidental" discovery. In Fact, Dom Perignon, whom many credit with perfecting the champagne process, hated bubbles and according to Richard, he thought they were "crass."

The varying degrees of "dryness" relates to the amount of sugar and wine that is added to "top off" the bottle after they extract the yeast particles from the finished product. The scale (from driest to sweetest) is Extra Brut, Brut, Sec/Extra Sec, Demi-Sec, and Doux. Originally, sweetness was prized, but through the years people have developed a preference for a dried taste. And now a toast: To Champagne! May it be forever in our lives and in our glasses.

Happy Holidays everyone! Didn't make it to ICE Culinary's December Champagne Gala? Get uncorked with a romantic twist by registering for ICE Culinary's Champagne Gala for Valentine's Day.

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