So a thought crossed my mind; could it be that the reason for the overwhelming popularity of Diwali and Christmas over other festivities in Goa is because neither of these occasions is packaged with prescribed religious abstinence pertaining to food or wine? Perhaps so, although there may be few that follow a vegetarian diet on Diwali day, but by far it is less stringently followed than say Lent before Easter or Shravan before Ganesh Chaturthi.
The festive season is upon us. No sooner than Diwali fever subsides, Christmas and New Year will emerge. So, why not merge the festival of lights with sparkles this year…and what better way to do it than to pop open a bottle of champagne? Or so I thought, but then it occurred to me that champagne need not be the drink of celebrations only.
Back in the day, champagne was widely consumed by common people, but then producers wanted to create a desirable image for their brand so many of them sought to associate it with monarchs and the nobility. As a result, champagne became ‘special’. The Romanovs were especially keen on it, not to mention other European royalty. The reason so many champagne houses have German names is that at that time the ermans were far better linguists than French and more successful at conquering local export markets. Even to this day, most French champagne houses have German names like Krug, Bollinger, Louis Roederer and so on.
British aristocracies were especially keen on the drink as well and before long it had established itself as their drink of choice. Therefore, those further down the social scale who wished to show themselves to be on the way up, or who had something to celebrate, began to turn to champagne as the liquid means of doing so. We can all see the point of this, and we have all done it, but I am never sure that these are the best circumstances in which to embark upon this drink.
Champagne’s unmatched status as the wine of celebrations has kept it confined to only special occasions. It has been pigeonholed, which is a mistake because it is so diverse and can go well with so many types of food, especially Indian. It also comes in various sugar concentrations, which means there is something for every palate from dry to sweet.
Brut, the most common style of champagne (means raw or untreated in French) indicates that the Champagne is dry, that it contains little or no added sweetness. Paradoxically, ‘extra dry’ champagne is sweeter than brut, and ‘sec’, which means dry, is sweeter than extra dry. A champagne drier than brut might be called ‘brut nature’ or in some cases ‘Brut Sauvage’
Yes, champagnes’ labelling can be confusing but an easy way to remember is if you like the sweet local port wine, stick to labels with sec, demi-sec and doux (doux being the sweetest of them). To me, the best time to drink champagne is not when it is a special occasion, rather when we are thirsty. It is great on a nice sunny afternoon with fried prawns, grilled fish on a light salad or a ‘sec’ with chicken xacuti.
Although it is true that champagnes and sparkling wines need to be served chilled, it is also important to remember that the more a wine is chilled, the more muted their aromas and flavours get. It is imperative that they are served at the precise temperature so one can enjoy them for their character. There are many articles that will tell you that it should be served between 7 to 10 degrees Celcius, but I strongly recommend you figure out your own temperature. I personally, prefer mine a couple degrees warmer.
So, let us not wait for the right occasion for champagne, rather let champagne be the occasion and I promise you will enjoy it!