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Since You Asked

With New Year's Eve almost here, here are two questions about champagne: Where do the bubbles come from? And can it be champagne if it's not made in France?

— Terry R., Central Point

Champagne is from Champagne, Terry. The region around Reims and Epernay in northeastern France has a chalky soil that accounts for the taste of champagne. Sparkling wines from anyplace else, if using the name "champagne," are simply trying to borrow some of the sparkle of the real deal.

Champagne is made from chardonnay and pinot noir grapes, fermented and refermented. The bubbles are carbon dioxide, a by-product of fermentation. All fermenting wines throw off gas, but in the champagne process, the bubbles are kept in the bottle.

Books could be written, and have, on champagne lore. But the wine snobs over at the Oenology Institute here at Since You Asked World Headquarters say their favorite is the story of Dom Perignon.

This Benedictine monk was the cellarmaster at an abbey near Epernay in the late 1600s. He not only started the practice of blending wines from different parts of Champagne, he is credited with an invention without which today's champagne would not have been possible: the cork stopper secured with string or wire. Salud!

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com.