I met the Swedish writer and champagne expert Richard Juhlin in Rheims a couple of years ago, mingling with a dozen or so other people in the wine trade who had been invited by Krug to attend a fascinating three-day seminar and blending workshop that took place in their vineyards and historic cellars. I found Juhlin to be charming, witty, confident, opinionated, and humorously arrogant in the way that men in their late 40s often are when thrust into a group of their peers, whether it is on the playing field, at a dinner party, or in a tasting room.
In other words, I liked him.
And those of us who disagreed with his tasting opinions — and that frequently happened — were not daunted by his reputation. We gave him a lot of crap whenever he went over the top, especially when he was a participant/provocateur in the experimental blending sessions.
Now anyone can judge him for themselves. His new book is A Scent of Champagne: 8,000 Champagnes Tasted and Rated (400 pages, Skyhorse Publishing, $75), which goes on sale today, and it is a gem of information.
There is no doubting Juhlin’s broad range of knowledge. Frankly, it is doubtful that any other person alive has the breadth and depth of pertinent information that Juhlin has about champagne, whether it is stored in his mind or in his notebooks. Having read little of his previous writings, I was quite interested in seeing how his persona translated to the page and whether his knowledge of champagne would manifest itself into something interesting and wise or simply be a sedate encyclopedia that we could reference from time to time.
There is some of both, but more of the latter.
Juhlin is not the sort of person who hides his feelings about himself to himself, and, although self-aggrandizing, his accounts of how he grew to love champagne and his abilities of recall long-ago tastings with just a whiff — or a scent — of the bubbly are indeed interesting, well-written and, in their way, even romantic. If these observations were part of a novel told in the first pages, we would be hooked to see where his adventures would lead him.
But the large hole in the book is that Juhlin has had access to the great winemakers of champagne and — even with his flawless memory — he tells us little about them and their philosophies. Think of all the anecdotes he could share, the observations to be made late in the evening over many glasses of champagne chatting informally with the great minds, the great artists of champagne. We won’t find these insights behind the numbers here, unfortunately.
So while the reader may give a smile here and a chuckle here at Juhlin’s self-indulgences, the real worth of the book is that it's an invaluable catalog of champagnes made and tasted. I cannot imagine a serious champagne drinker who wouldn’t check constantly to see what Juhlin knows about this producer or that or how his tasting notes square with that of the drinker. Yes, it is a great book for holiday giving — though too massive for any stocking — that could be comfortably housed either in the recipient’s study or on his or her coffee table.
It’s a book I will use often as a reference for information, but much less so for insight into the true wisdom of the producers.
Champagne cocktail recipes
Add some sparkle to your next party with our tasty champagne cocktail recipes. From bellinis to summery spritzes, we have a drink for every occasion.
Serve this fruity cocktail at a garden party or wedding reception. With crushed fresh raspberries, raspberry liqueur and champagne, it's a real taste of summer
Blend some chilled champagne with brandy and bitters for a sophisticated champagne cocktail. Garnish with an orange twist to serve
Elderflower & champagne cocktail
Mix elderflower cordial, gin, lychee juice and lemon bitters with chilled champagne to make this superb cocktail that tastes like summer all year round
If you love mojitos and champagne, this will be the cocktail of your dreams. Combine rum, mint, sugar syrup and Angostura bitters and top it up with champers
Porter & champagne
Combine porter or light stout with champagne to make this unusual cocktail. Similar to a Black Velvet, it's rich and decadent – perfect to impress party guests
The berry sweetness of sloe gin perks up this fizz cocktail - use Prosecco or Champagne, and edible glitter for extra sparkle
Love pre-dinner cocktails? Serve the perfect aperitif by blending Aperol or Campari with sparkling water and a generous amount of your favourite champagne
This is a sophisticated, aromatic twist on the classic French 75, to get it ready for the festive season. A boozy taste of Christmas in a glass
Make a classic kir royale cocktail with crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) and your favourite champagne. Garnish with a blackberry to serve to guests
Blend fresh fruit with champagne to make this fabulous mango bellini. It's great as a summer cocktail or a dinner party aperitif, or alongside a weekend brunch
Mix a classic mimosa cocktail with orange juice and champagne – or use prosecco if you prefer a different sort of bubbly. It's an easy fix when entertaining
Blood orange & star anise fizz
The perfect zesty tipple for a spring celebration. Who could resist a blend of sharp blood orange, star anise and Grand Marnier, topped with bubbles?
With the amount of Blanc de Blancs Champagnes found in wine shops and on restaurant menus, you wouldn’t be wrong to think that Chardonnay is very widely planted. But of the main three, it’s the least planted grape variety in Champagne, comprising just over 25,000 acres. In fact, Chardonnay-based Champagnes make up less than 5% of the category.
Due to its mild flavor profile, Chardonnay can be influenced by winemaking decisions rather easily. Its inclusion can add acidity, structure and freshness.
Is Champagne Gluten-Free?
Sparkling wine, including Champagne and Prosecco, is naturally gluten-free.
If you’ve visited our “ is wine gluten-free? ” page then you know that just about all wines are naturally gluten-free. The same holds true for Champagne as the ingredients and process are similar. (Learn more about the winemaking process here .) Like wine, there are cases where cross-contact can occur during processing or packaging, but these are generally few and far between.
Champagne contains higher portions of dissolved CO2 in order to make the beverage bubbly. Make note that this carbonation is caused by natural yeast fermentation, which is gluten-free. This is not the same as brewer’s yeast used in the production of beer, most of which does contain gluten.
Most brands of sparkling wine/Champagne are considered gluten-free and safe to consume for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity (aka gluten intolerance). Like wine, some champagne brands label their bottles gluten-free to reflect precautions taken while processing and bottling. However, that does not mean you should stay away from unlabeled bottles as many simply don’t add a label due to the naturally gluten-free nature of the product.
If you have questions or concerns about a particular brand of sparkling wine/Champagne, we recommend that you reach out directly to that brand to learn about safety precautions taken to ensure their product is truly gluten-free.
In closing, is champagne gluten-free? Yes, but be careful with the brands that add extra ingredients to their wines for taste or preservation. Every so often manufacturers may change or update ingredients, so always do your research before purchasing.
What's the Difference Between Vintage and Non-Vintage Champagne?
Champagne is always a good idea, particularly in the summertime months. It&aposs cold, it&aposs refreshing, it&aposs celebratory, and there&aposs something extra special about being able to pop open a bottle on the porch. But when you&aposre buying a bottle of Champagne you might have some questions. You probably already know that real Champagne is from the Champagne region of France (otherwise it&aposs, legally speaking, another kind of fizzy wine). But what about the other distinctions on the bottle? For one, what&aposs the difference between vintage and non-vintage Champagne?
It turns out that it has nothing to do with the age of the bottle. Vintage Champagne means that it&aposs taken from just one year&aposs harvest. It&aposs not something that Champagne houses do every year, either—it&aposs reserved for particularly good years. Champagne houses generally only make three or four vintages a decade. It&aposs not always the case, but vintage Champagnes tend to command higher prices, too. That&aposs because there are far fewer bottles of them out there than non-vintage Champagnes. Each vintage is unique—they tend to be a bit more complex on the palate.
Non-vintage Champagne, on the other hand, is made by blending the harvest of several years. It means that there&aposs more of it, and it tends to come at a lower price point than vintage. "What you&aposre looking for in non-vintage is consistency," explained Cyril Brun, the Chef de Caves at Charles Heidsick. The Champagne maker just introduced a Blanc de Blancs non-vintage (abbreviated NV) as well as their 2004 Blanc des Millénaires. Vintage bottles will have the year marked on the bottle, whereas non-vintages won&apost have a single year. The goal, Brun said, is to make a non-vintage taste the same from year to year. Having access to multiple years of harvest allows Champagne houses to balance the bottle&aposs flavors according to the balance they&aposre looking for.
Non-vintage bottles are aged for a minimum of 15 months, and vintage bottles are aged for at least three years. So yes, a vintage bottle, when released, tends to be older than a non-vintage bottle𠅋ut that&aposs not really what it means.
It is inevitable that the labor-intensive process of making champagne will be further mechanized in the twenty-first century. Already, agricultural advances have reduced the threat of rot in the vineyard, thus reducing the number of workers needed to pick over the grapes in the fields. Some of the larger champagne houses have replaced the traditional round wooden press with a horizontal model inside of which a rubber bag inflates and gently presses the grapes against the sides of the press. Experiments are underway to develop a mechanized method for rotating the bottles to replace the costly hand-turning method. To date, none have proved effective, but industry observers believe that the change is in-escapable.
Easy champagne cocktail recipes
Champagne, blackcurrant liqueur and a blackberry to garnish is all you need to whip up this classic cocktail, perfect for a celebratory cocktail without the fuss.
Homemade grenadine and champagne cocktails
These eye-catching grenadine and champagne cocktails are an easy way to add some sparkle to your dinner table. Simple but effective.
This classic champagne cocktail is simple to make but looks stunning, perfect for the party season.
Champagne and berry fizz
Try this twist on a sgroppino, with champagne or cava and a scoop of berry sorbet to create a 5-minute tipple.
A really beautiful, split-coloured champagne cocktail invented by the legendary Salvatore Calabrese. If you can’t find the fraise de bols, you could use another liqueur like crème de cassis.
A great sparkling Christmas party cocktail. After you have decorated the champagne flutes, chill them in the freezer or fill them with ice for a few minutes.
Jerry Thomas' 1862 & 1887 recipes
In the world's first cocktail book, How to Mix Drinks, or The Bon Vivant's Companion published in 1862, Jerry Thomas also omits the brandy, commonly used in today's recipes. He also serves in a tumbler over broken (crushed) ice. I don't take the instruction to "Shake well" literally and presume he meant stir.
Jerry Thomas' 1862 Champagne Cocktail
By the time Thomas wrote the 1887 edition of his book fashion and the Champagne Cocktail had obviously moved on. He calls for a goblet rather than a tumbler, and the "broken ice" has been replaced with a "small lump of ice", and the use of a sugar is introduced - much closer to the modern-day Champagne Cocktail.
Jerry Thomas' 1887 Champagne Cocktail (over 2 pages)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 1/2 cups packed mint leaves, plus 12 mint sprigs, for garnish
- 6 limes, cut into wedges
- 2 cups light rum
- Cracked ice
- 3 cups Champagne or sparkling wine
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and cook over high heat just until the sugar has dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.
In a large pitcher, combine the sugar syrup with the mint leaves and lime wedges and muddle well with a wooden spoon. Add the rum and stir well. Strain the drink into another pitcher.
Fill tall glasses with cracked ice and pour in the drink, filling them about two-thirds full. Top with Champagne, garnish with the mint sprigs and serve.
Champagne is a wine of infinite variety because every winemaker, through skilled blending, produces a wine with definite characteristics that distinguish it from its competitors&mdashmarked differences in flavor, lightness, dryness, and body. It needn&rsquot break the bank, either. For a punch or mixed drink use a less expensive, non-vintage Brut Champagne, not a vintage or the finest Cuvée. This also applies if you are using Champagne in the kitchen.
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 bottle Brut Champagne
- 1/3 cup orange juice, from about 1 1/2 oranges
- 1 tablespoon grated orange rind, from 1 orange
Heat water with sugar until it comes to a rolling boil. Boil for 6 minutes. Make sure all the sugar is dissolved. Add the bottle of Champagne and heat (this burns off a bit of the alcohol). Remove from heat. Stir in the orange juice and grated orange rind. Allow the mixture to cool, or refrigerate overnight. Pour this into an ice cream maker or sorbet machine and process until the sorbet is softly frozen, not hard. Serve immediately.
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This simple, celebratory cocktail with tequila, grenadine, and fresh orange juice can be topped off with Champagne or Prosecco for a sparkling finish and a festive twist on the classic Tequila Sunrise. To take it to the next level, make homemade grenadine—it’s easier than you think, and way better than most store-bought stuff.
What to buy
Reed & Barton Soho Double Old Fashioned Crystal Whiskey Glasses, 4 for $60 on Wayfair
Add a little class to your bar cart.
- 1 Fill an Old Fashioned glass with ice. Add grenadine, then slowly pour in orange juice, then tequila (don’t stir or you’ll lose the layers in the glass).
- 2 Top with Champagne or Prosecco and serve.
Recommended from Chowhound
This holiday episode of My Go-To Dish features Gabrielle Hamilton, bestselling author and chef-owner of Prune restaurant in New York City. Her traditional Christmas Eve meal is simple: homemade minestrone soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, and high-end champagne. To make her go-to meal your own, get her Minestrone Soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches recipe.
Nicole Garrett, executive baker at SusieCakes, shares this New Year's tip for baking with champagne. Get started with this yellow cake recipe as your base.
The mimosa is a surprisingly simple drink: just one part champagne to one part OJ. It's also surprisingly easy to mess up, leaving you with a warm, flat, gross cocktail that'll knock you to the floor before brunch has even been served. Learn the right way to pour this brunch favorite with CHOW Senior Editor Lessley Anderson.