Champagne: The Bottle and The Business

William Schragis
William Schragis
Culinary Institute of America

William Schragis lectures at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley and is the Chief Product Innovation Officer at Barrell Craft Spirits. A graduate of Wesleyan University and the Culinary Institute of America, he previously worked as a sommelier in Eli Zabar’s family of restaurants and wine shops, and at Zachy’s Retail and Auction — one of the world’s leading fine wine and spirits retailers — where he managed sales and purchasing for the spirits department.

Overview

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Champagne is an iconic word in the lexicon of wine. Yes, it is the name of a specific region. However, it also evokes celebration, opulence, and imagery around the globe. Revered as it is, Champagne is also one of the world’s most misunderstood bottles. There are very specific geographic and production guidelines that inform what can and cannot be called Champagne, or more specifically what is Champagne and what most certainly is not.

 

In this lecture, we will quickly survey the political and wine-centric history of Champagne as a place and then discus its position in the world today. We’ll then look at Champagne as a bottle to consume, examining some of the most lauded labels, as well as up-and-coming and lesser-known producers. We’ll discuss what food pairings and occasions sommeliers use Champagne for today and compare it to some other famous sparkling wines. Finally, we will look at some favorite bottles of Champagne and why they are so exciting.

 

Recommended Reading:

But First, Champagne: A Modern Guide to the World’s Favorite Wine, by David White

The New Wine Rules: A Genuinely Helpful Guide to Everything You Need to Know, by Jon Bonné

Exploring Wine: Completely Revised 3rd Edition, by Steven Kolpan, Brian H Smith, et al.

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. When do you generally think about drinking champagne? Do you save it for special occasions, and if so… why?
  2. Champagne is undoubtedly French. Why is it that we so often use the word to describe any sparkling wine?
  3. Do you like Chardonnay or Pinot Noir? Would it surprise you that these are the two primary grapes used in Champagne production?

 

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