Champagne is widely used on all kinds of festive occasions, such as weddings, parties, receptions, openings, after sports activities, the list just goes on and on. But where does it come from, and how is it presented ?
The word "Champagne" is actually a diminutive of the French name "Vin de Champagne", or Wine of Champagne. In 50 BC, in the beginning of the Gallo-Roman era and right after the conquest of Gaul, the Romans planted the first vineyards in this region.
In 1114, the local monks refined the wine, and their abbot, Guillaume de Champeaux, made "the Grand Charter of Champagne". But it took until the 1600's, before champagne was used more frequently in the French and English courts, probably under the influence of Parisian families who possessed substantial estates in the region.
In 1670, dom Pérignon, a monk of the Benedictine monastery of Hautvillers, was the first to develop the Méthode Champenoise, that increases the quality of the wine, and takes away some of the shortcomings. He copied the method from the vineyards of Limoux, and applied it to champagne. He was also the first to use cork stoppers, and he used thicker glass for the bottle, to avoid a possible explosion.
In 1729, Nicolas Irénée Ruinart started the first champagne wine shop in Reims. After that, the champagne wine began its international ascent, with famous champagne houses such as Louis Heidsieck or Claude Moët, followed in the 1800's by Perrier, Bollinger, Pommery, and Veuve Clicquot.
Aside from the differences between the methods, used by the champagne wineries, there is also quite a difference in the bottles that are used to present Champagne.
Small bottles The Piccolo is widely spread over Western Europe, but the Demi is mostly used in France. Piccolo quarter bottle 0.18 L Demi half bottle 0.37 L Traditional bottles The Magnum is almost as common as the Standard bottle. Jeroboam and Rehoboam bottles are mostly seen on TV, when the winner sprinkles his friends after an Formula 1 race! The Methuselah bottle will eventually be used at large parties or receptions. Standard 750ml 0.75 L Magnum 2 bottles 1.50 L Jeroboam 4 bottles 3.00 L Rehoboam 6 bottles 4.50 L Methuselah 8 bottles 6.00 L Extraordinary sizes I don't think that any of us have ever seen any of these bottles being used... Salmanazar 12 bottles 9.00 L Balthazar 16 bottles 12.00 L Nebuchadnezzar 20 bottles 15.00 L Melchior 24 bottles 18.00 L More than extraordinary sizes...
The following sizes are not destined for mere mortals... But actually, the list used to end with the Sovereign bottle, until - by popular demand, no doubt - in 1999 the Primat bottle was developed. In 2002, the even more prestigious Melchizedek giant bottle came out! I shudder to even think of its price...
Solomon 26.66 bottles 20.00 L Sovereign 33.33 bottles 25.00 L Primat 36 bottles 27.00 L Melchizedek 40 bottles 30.00 L The world's absolutely largest bottle!...
But an even larger bottle has been made, the Maximus!
It was made to order in Czechia by a glass specialist, and it took one year and two tries to make it.
It was then filled with Cabernet-Sauvignon wine, and contains more than 1,200 glasses ! Later, the bottle was sold at Sotheby's in New York, for the nifty sum of 56.000 $... The proceeds went to charity.
Maximus 173 bottles 129.75 L