A Word On Food: Champagne

1997. Chef Charlie Trotter. Photo: Charles Cherney. file

People of all faiths have woken today and know it is the day after Christmas. It is such an impactful holiday. The moments of hope for humanity touch deeply at times like these. It is a time that calls for the most magnificent celebrations and gratitude for life. As far as a beverage to hoist that illustrates mankind’s best natures I would vote Champagne to be a superb choice.

What do you imagine went through their heads the first time a winemaker saw those tiny magical bubbles that blossom out of the bottom of a golden-hued flute of Champagne? Would they take it a good sign … or something that spelled disaster? As it turns out trepidation was the initial response but after experiencing it wonder was born!

My friend Karen MacNeil who is one of the world’s leading authorities on wine and the author of the book aptly titled, ‘The Wine Bible’ wrote, “it’s perhaps important to remember that the Champagne region has had a difficult past. Located in northeastern France, Champagne lies directly along the route from Germany to Paris. During both World Wars, the vineyards were a battlefield furrowed with trenches and gutted with shell holes. Many vines were uprooted, shrouded in poison gas, or killed by disease and neglect. With most men at war, women and children were left to harvest whatever grapes remained and make what wine they could. By the end of World War I alone, 40% of Champagne’s vines had disappeared, and in the main village of Reims (rence), only a handful of Champagne firms remained intact.”

Most people probably think of Dom Pérignon, a Benedictine monk who was an important quality pioneer for Champagne but who, contrary to popular myths, did not discover the ‘Champagne method’ for making sparkling wines. When I think of Champagne our personal experiences are heavily weighted to a woman who gave her name to one of the finest houses of Champagne. A woman known at The Widow Clicquot.


Now it’s time to hit the ‘Listen on WLRN’ button at the top to hear the remainder of my show. ‘A Word On Food’ airs on WLRN every Saturday around 8:30 a.m. at 91.3 and also 91.5 on the radio. I want to thank so many of you who tell me in person how much you are enjoying the show! Please check out my Instagram photos and my new IG TV cooking videos @normanvanaken 

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