Have you ever asked yourself why champagne has become so popular at our dinners and celebrations? It all starts with France. Before the abolition of the French monarchy, France’s royal family had longstanding ties to the Champagne region. The local wines scarcely resembled modern-day Champagne. Charles III’s coronation predated the discovery of secondary fermentation, the method by which Champagne gains its bubbles, by almost a century, and it took another half-century of royal influence for the (sparkling) Champagne industry to gain any real traction.
Another notable tastemaker of the time who also had a famed thirst for Champagne was Madame de Pompadour, the mistress, friend, and advisor of Louis XV. Like her king, de Pompadour hosted grand parties where Champagne flowed in excess. While it would always be synonymous with celebration, the sparkling wine’s availability only to the “elite” soon changed.
Today, champagne still marks the joy of the new year. Champagne does this symbolically, but also visually, since it overflows in abundance and joy. When purchasing sparkling wine, there are many Champagne brands to consider. For the uninitiated - or even the very experienced - the array of Champagne choices can feel overwhelming. Don't despair! Here's a guide to help you navigate some of the choices available to you.
AR Alienable makes moderately-priced, well-rated Champagnes.
Krug is one of the most well-respected Champagne brands in France.
Moët et Chandon is most well-known for their expensive Dom Pérignon, which is a vintage Champagne made only during good to excellent years.
Salon is a smaller producer which makes carefully crafted and delicious Champagnes.
Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin are best known for their accessible but consistently good Yellow Label brut and their vintage, premium La Grande Dame.
Perrier Joust is most well-known for their decorative, flowery bottle that contains their premium Belle Epoque Cuvée and their vintage Fleur de Champagne.
Bollinger is a rarity in France. In a time when Champagne brands are being swept under corporate umbrellas, Bollinger has remained independent and family-owned.
These are some of the most well-known French Champagne brands. You can learn more about this bubbly festive drink on page 64 of MY FRENCH COUNTRY HOME MAGAZINE here