42. The History of Champagne

“I only drink Champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad.”  – Lily Bollinger

The Land of Desire turns 2 years old! We’re celebrating with – what else? – champagne! Pop, fizz, salut: we’re going deep into the history of the world’s favorite party drink to find out what makes bubbly so special, what makes the fizzy drink fizz, and what makes us feel the urge to smash bottles of it against shiny new ships. Pour yourself a glass and listen!

Episode 42: “The History of Champagne”

The bar:

If you’re passing through San Francisco and want to visit the champagne bar I mentioned at the beginning of the episode, it’s called The Riddler and I love it! (No, I don’t know anybody who works there and this is not a sponsored episode, haha. I just love this place and want it to stay open forever. Sitting at a swanky bar drinking champagne and doing the New York Times crossword puzzle is my idea of heaven.)

Try this at home:

I mentioned that I’m organizing a taste test at work – you can try this with a group, too! Grab a bottle of sparkling wine (preferably Californian), a bottle of Prosecco and a bottle of actual French champagne. Moet Chandon’s Imperial Brut is the most popular bottle of French champagne in the world and costs about $30, not too bad. Pour each one into labeled cups and see if folks can tell which one is which. (I can usually figure out the prosecco but that’s it.)

Further Reading:

The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It – Tilar J. Mazzeo


Bursting Bubbles – Robert Walters

Champagne: How the World’s Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times – Don and Petie Kladstrup

When Champagne Became French: Wine and the Making of a National Identity – Kolleen M. Guy

  • The best way to learn to pronounce it is to start with TER WAR and then refine the vowels as you get more comfortable with the word itself. I really find some French distinctions that are based on a place to be a rip-off. There are excellent sparkling wines from other countries and other parts of France that are perfectly good for most occasions. I actually prefer the American way of basing the distinctions on the grapes and making French-style brie, etc. It’s important to remember that we’ve won several wine tastings and competitions with the French using our own methods.

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