19 April 2013

Pink champagne


Excerpts from an essay at Lapham's Quarterly:
Rose champagne is the intoxicant of choice for courtesans and kings. Beautiful, expensive, and rare, it was beloved by the grandest of the grandes horizontales of nineteenth-century Paris—and the men who could afford to love them...

But it wasn’t until well into the twentieth century that rose champagne went democratic and entered the public domain. In Depression-era New York it passed in the more upscale speakeasies for cherry soda. But it reached an apogee of applause when it turned up in the movies, most memorably in 1959 in An Affair to Remember, when Cary Grant drinks it with Deborah Kerr as they first meet aboard an ocean liner. They proceed to drink nothing but the stuff as their love affair unfolds. Sales in the U.S. ballooned that year...
The elaborate wine-making process that led to white bubbly was worked out at the ancient Abbey of Saint Pierre d’Hautvillers by the blind Benedictine monk, Dom Pierre Pérignon... Sampling one of his own bottles, Dom Perignon famously said “I am drinking stars.” In 1668 he was appointed cellerer and procurator of the monastery and wine maker to the Sun King, Louis XIV, who adored the stuff and thought it good for his gout. [wrong]..

Being declared ready to drink, a vintage champagne is allowed to ferment for ten years or more in the bottle as it continues to produce biological bubbles behind a stout cork and toughened glass. In Dom Pérignon’s own day, bottles would explode as the pressure built up to three times that inside a car tire, shattering weak wood fired eighteenth century French glass and blowing out the oiled hemp stoppers early vintners used. It was the British with their own great thirst for bubbles who first perfected coal fired toughened glass and corks from Portugal that finally made storage safe...

Rose champagne is rare. Only three percent of the 350 million bottles produced annually in the Champagne region of France are pink, perhaps because giving it its tint while maintaining its quality is hard. It’s basically a matter of either adding still red Pinot Noir just before the second fermentation, or leaving the red Pinot grape skins in contact with the wine for a while—both of which are risky and complex. A small mistake can turn the champagne into an unwanted, unsalable red, blue or brown... 
Top image from Sparkles and Crumbs; there is additional commentary re the movie at Apollinas (whence the smaller photo).

2 comments:

  1. I would totally drink blue champagne.

    ReplyDelete
  2. My favourite movie, and my favourite cocktail. Great post! :)

    ReplyDelete

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