Monday, December 29, 2014

Champagne 101 and Why Do I Get a Headache from It

Image credit: Huffington Post

As New Year's Eve is fast approaching and the Champagne cork is about to pop, I thought about how much I love that sweet and cheerful bubbly drink, but I just don't know much about. All I know is that it tastes delicious and, sometimes, it gives me a splitting headache.  But it is the New Year's, and I know that I won't resist taking a few sips. I thought to learn more about Champagne and maybe even figure out how to prevent the headache from happening.

First things first:
What is the difference between Champagne and Sparkling wine ~ 
Champagne is Sparkling wine that comes from the region of Champagne, France. Sparkling wines that come from other regions of France or anywhere in the world cannot be called Champagne. I had no idea! So basically, All Champagnes are sparkling wines, but not all sparkling wines are Champagnes! 

How Champagne is made (in super simple terms) ~ 
Champagne usually made from grapes of as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. As all wine is made trough a simple fermentation process that converts grape sugar into alcohol. In Champagne, there is a secondary fermentation when sugar and yeast are added and the bubbles of carbon dioxide begin to form without an opportunity to escape until the cork is popped. 

Different types of Champagne ~
Extra brut, the driest. *Dry means opposite of sweet. 
Brut, standard, typically crispy and dry palate appeal. 
Extra-Dry is less dry than Brut.
Sec is sweet.
Demi Sec is sweeter.
Doux is the sweetest.

Vintage bottles are, just like wines, made from a single (superior) year's worth of grapes. Recent top vintages are 1995, 1996, 2002, and, possibly, 2008.

Different Champagne colors ~
Blanc de Blancs, all Chardonnay.
Blank de Noirs, a white wine made from red grapes.
Rosé produced either by blending red and white wine or by saignée method, which allows a brief contact with the kinds of red grapes.

Why we get headache from Champagne ~ 
Putting all possible medical reasons aside, scientists are still pondering why some people get headaches from wine. First, they thought that the Sulfites, Tannins, or Histamines are the cause of the headache. Soon, though, these theories were dismissed. Apparently, the Sulfites found in wine can cause asthma symptoms, but not the headache. Tannins are actually a good antioxidant source and may cause headache to those who are severely allergic. However, high level of Tannins is found in black tea, and if you don't get headache from steep black tea, then you should not get the headache from wine. It is possible to get headache from Histamines, chemicals that are released when we have an allergic reaction, in this case, to wine. Claritin, or any histamine blocker should help. 

Main cause of wine headaches, however, is dehydration, especially if Champagne is sweet. Sometimes, during Sunday Brunches, the restaurants serve very cheap wine that is injected with sugar and bubbles like soda, and, if body is not well hydrated, this sugar and alcohol combo depletes the liquid in our body and head, and a headache forms. So, when drinking, hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate. 

Champagne and food pairing ~
There is a reason why many looove Champagne brunch. Pairing Champagne with poached eggs, smoked salmon, or buttery toasts tastes delicious. Aged, hard cheeses such as Parmesan, gouda or cheddar pair very well with Champagne. Goat cheese crostini go well with Blanc de Bancs. Oh, I forgot, Champagne and Caviar are not a bad combo too!

Champagne Glasses shapes, flutes vs. saucers ~
While Champagne saucers were very popular in the early 20th century, they have been surpassed by the flute glasses. The saucers' wide rim enables the aroma and carbonation to escape too easily. Meanwhile, the point at the bottom of the flute glasses cause the congregation of the carbonate bubbles that rise to the top. This captures the flavor and aroma of Champagne. 
I will stop here for now, but I am so happy I learned something new today! And I am excited to pop the cork and cheer Hello to the New Year. I wish a happy and adventurous 2015 to all of YOU, my friends! And THANK YOU SO MUCH for always being there and sharing all these experiences with me!

Would love to hear from you! What is your favorite Champagne and what do you like pairing it with? Any other tips on how to keep the headache away? Any fun facts about Champagne? Any special wishes for the New Year?

xo, Zuma A.

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