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Champagne Story Is Intriguing

French champagne

French champagne

Yesterday was Champagne Day. I love the idea of Champagne Day and sparkling wine celebrations. Unfortunately there is some erroneous information about the development of champagne.  Yesterday I received an email with a link to Champagne Day that indicated that Dom Perignon quoted about seeing the stars when he first created champagne. Unfortunately this is one of those myths that is delightful to read and hear about but according to winemakers in Champagne, France not quite the true story.

In a blog Terry wrote in March 2015, he wrote, “Champagne has the legend of Dom Pérignon, the blind monk at the Abbey of Hautvillers who invented champagne. The only truth in this legend is that there was a Dom Pérignon and he made wine. He probably wasn’t blind and he probably tried to stop effervescence in still wines not deliberately create it. Besides, the method of deliberately creating fizz with a secondary fermentation was already established prior to Dom Pérignon becoming the cellar master at the Abbey of Hautvillers. The first intentional crafted sparkling wines made in Champagne occurred about 15 years after Dom Pérignon’s death. But, if you say something enough times, it becomes true.”

champagne in Champagne, France

champagne in Champagne, France

Earlier in March 2015 Terry wrote another blog about the origins of sparkling wine and Champagne. In a salute to Champagne and if you want to be informed about Champagne, be sure to read his online blog, Sparkling wine before Champagne.

Myths are cute, easy to remember and create memories but when talking about any subject whether it is food, wine or politics, truth and facts are most important.

Another champagne topic of interest is the idea that only champagne produced in the Champagne region of France may be labeled as a Champagne. According to the TTB, a few exceptions are made in the United States. Under the proof that a winery has been producing and labeling champagne for a certain number of years, the winery may be grandfathered in. According to the TTB, “Following years of negotiations, the United States and the European Union (EU) signed an agreement on trade in wine on March 10, 2006.  In the agreement the U.S. committed to seeking to change the legal status of the semi-generic names to restrict their use solely to wines originating in the applicable EU member state with certain exceptions, in particular, a “grandfather” provision.  Under the “grandfather” provision, any person or their successor of interest may continue to use a semi-generic name on a label of wine not originating in the EU provided the semi-generic name appeared on a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) that was issued prior to March 10, 2006.” Thus you will find a few sparkling wines in the United States labeled champagne.

The US wineries continuing to use the word champagne have two basic underlying reasons for doing so. Number one is that champagne refers to a type of wine, not a geographical region. Number two is that a winery has been producing and labelling wine as a champagne for many years or decades, some over a century and should be allowed to continue to use the name.

One of these US wineries is Thornton Winery in Temecula, California, whose chef also provided us with a delightful dessert recipe in which a little champagne is used.

Ginger & Peach Tart


1 package puff pastry tart shells 4-5” diameter
3 medium firm fresh peaches
1 T Minced crystallized ginger
½ cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup Thornton Brut Champagne


1. Place peaches into boiling water for 1 minute (to loosen skin). Transfer peaches into a bowl of ice water. Once cooled peel peaches, cut in half, remove pits and dice into ½” cubes.

2. Combine minced ginger, sugar and wine in a large pan. Cook ingredients until wine is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add diced peaches and continue to cook 3-5 minutes more. Remove from pan and let cool in refrigerator.

3. Cook tart shells according to instructions on package, let cool. Do NOT refrigerate.

Spoon peach mixture into cooled puff shells, serve with warm sabayon.

Yields 6

Recipe was provided by Steve Pickell, Executive Chef Café Champagne at Thornton Winery. A Wine Trail Traveler article about Thornton Winery is available online.

In any event if you enjoy champagne, continue on!


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