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    • A Toast to Champagne
    • 13 years ago by Rama
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      So, here's a short history, followed followed by some interesting facts that will help you finish off the leftovers.

      In the Beginning
      Church rituals made wine a necessity. During the Middle Ages, grapevines were planted alongside churches in order to provide wine for Mass and communion. By the end of the 13th century, numerous monasteries dotted the French countryside. Benedictine monks worked diligently, tending the vineyards and experimenting with soil conditions to improve the quality of the grapes and increase the yields. At this time, they produced still wines.

      The Champagne region of France became known for its effervescent wine about the end of the 17th century. The bubbles increased pressure in bottles, causing many to explode. Gradually, the right combination of good quality bottles, corks, and reinforcing metal wires solved the problem.

      "True" Champagne
      To protect the economic interests of the area, the name "Champagne" gained legal protection in 1891. Under the Treaty of Madrid, it received designation as the Champagne appellation (an area special enough to warrant individual description). Effervescent wines not from Champagne are called "sparkling wines." Current U.S. regulations permit wineries to use the name "Champagne" if it was in use before March 10, 2006. It is not allowed on newer labels. So, if you desire the real thing, make sure your champagne comes from Champagne!

      Did You Know?
      - American actress and cultural icon Marilyn Monroe's last documented meal (at a Brentwood, California restaurant) included Dom P?rignon ? the famous champagne named for the French monk who was involved in early champagne making.

      - Bollinger R.D. was served at the wedding breakfast of the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1981. Diana's last meal (at the Ritz Hotel in Paris) consisted of an asparagus and mushroom omelet and Dover sole with vegetable tempura, washed down with Taittinger Champagne.

      - Champagne is usually found in two bottle sizes: standard (750ml) and magnums (equivalent to two bottles). There is also a demi or half bottle, and five larger sizes named for Biblical figures:

      o Jeriboam, named for the first ruler of the kingdom of Israel, holds 3 liters (four bottles)
      o Methuselah, the famous long-lived patriarch, holds 6 liters (eight bottles)
      o Salmanazar, ancient king of Assyria, holds 9 liters (12 bottles)
      o Balthazar, Babylonian regent, holds 12 liters (16 bottles) and
      o Nebuchadnezzar, Babylonian ruler, (the rarest size) holds 15 liters (20 bottles).

      How to Open Champagne
      If you have never opened a bottle of bubbly before and you're afraid you may have to squeegee the walls afterward, never fear. Here's how to do it safely:

      1. While holding the bottle with one hand, untwist the wire with the other hand and separate the strands that hold the cork in place. Remove the wire along with the foil wrapping.

      2. Tipping the bottle slightly, hold the cork with your left hand and gently turn the bottle with your right hand. Gradually ease the cork out. Never shake the bottle.

      *) from many sources

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