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Welcome to Bite, Your Independent Local Guide to Eating and Drinking in Edinburgh
Champagne

WHY WAIT FOR THE ODD SPECIAL OCCASION TO HAVE A GLASS? HALF THE FUN IS OPENING THE BOTTLE, BUT THERE'S MORE TO THIS STUFF THAN JUST CELEBRATION AND ROMANCE.

Champagne originates in France and must be from the Champagne district in order to be called Champagne. If the bubbles appear from elsewhere, it can only be called sparkling wine. In Spain, it's Cava, in Italy, Prosecco, and so on.

There are three major grape varietals grown in the Champagne region and only these three are permitted in making the wine: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are red grapes offering structure and backbone to the wine while Chardonnay offers complexity and roundness. Blanc de Noirs, if found on the label, means that the wine is made only with red grapes (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier). Blanc de Blancs is made with 100% Chardonnay. Blancs de Noir can be made as a white wine because the skins of the red grapes are treated with care during the pressing process and are then removed during the fermentation process.

The wine itself is made like any other still wine. The difference comes in the second fermentation process (which happens in the bottle). A little mixture of yeast, sugar and wine is added to the bottle and closed with a beer bottle like cap. It is at this stage that the bubbles are produced. The wine in the bottles are left to ferment and while this is happening they're slowly turned and inverted in order to send the sediment to the neck of the bottle, a process called riddling. It is said that Madame Cliquot of Veuve Cliquot is responsible for this process as she tired of drinking cloudy champagne. She developed 'riddling' in order for champagne to become a clear, more appealing product to consume.

Once the sediment has taken its journey, it's released from the bottle by freezing the neck in a solution. The sediment expands and shoots out and a top-up of wine is then added to replace any lost liquid. At this time the wonderful mushroom style cork is inserted and a wire cage is attached!

I highly recommend Piper Heidsieck as it is wonderful and well-priced. If you want to push the boat out, try a trusted Veuve Cliquot, or my favourite......Krug, any Krug! Santé!

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