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Here’s as good a reason as any to open a bottle of Champagne. This Friday, October 26, has been declared Global Champagne Day.
Champagne is the sparkling wine made in the designated Champagne region of northeastern France. Sparkling wine can be produced anywhere wine can be made, but offically it can only be called Champagne, if it is from Champagne.
Here are some interesting Champagne facts and tips:
• Vintage Champagne must be produced from only grapes harvested in the year indicated on the bottle.
• Non-vintage Champagne is indicated by “NV” on the label. This Champagne is made from grapes in the current harvest and wine from previous years. Depending upon the producer, it can vary from only 5-10 percent of the previous year blended with the current year, or 40-50 percent of the blend can have six or seven earlier vintages.
• There are only three grape varieties approved for Champagne: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
• A Blanc de Blancs Champagne is made from only Chardonnay grapes. Similarly, a Blanc de Noirs is produced from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, or a blend of both.
• There are six levels to indicate the sweetness of a Champagne. The least sweet (driest) is Extra Brut, followed by Brut, Extra-Sec, Sec, Demi-Sec and Doux, the sweetest Champagne.
• Champagne should be served between 40 and 45 degrees. You can chill it in an ice bucket for 20 minutes with a mix of ice and cold water.
• Open the bottle by holding the cork with a towel and rotating the bottle, very slowly. Sommeliers say the sound should be similar to the “sigh of a French woman.” When I open Champagne it sounds like a Jersey girl yelling “Cheers!”
A 25-year veteran of the wine and hospitality industry, George Staikos is known for his role as an educator, sharing his passion for wine appreciation. He is the founder and president of the Educated Grape, a company specializing in interactive education programs and in-home wine entertaining for wine enthusiasts and companies. He is a professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s International School of Hospitality Management, where he teaches “Introduction to the Study of Wine.” He is also Vice Echanson or regional wine director for the mid-Atlantic region for the Chaine des Rotisseurs, a worldwide food-and-wine organization.
Staikos is a graduate of Florida International University in Miami with a Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management. He is married with three children and lives in Flemington.