By Carolyn O’Neil
Popping open some bubbly adds finesse to the holiday festivities, and it’s a fine way to say, “A toast to your health!” More than just a luxury libation, Champagne sparkles with some happy health benefits. With only 78 calories in a four-ounce flute, dry or brut Champagne is one of the lowest calorie adult beverages you can pour. Since figure-friendly tips to avoid tipping the scales during the season of splurges include advice to slow down and truly appreciate food favorites; a glass of Champagne can help.
The bubbles in the effervescent liquid liven up the palate to enhance the pleasure of flavors so you can savor the turkey and gravy and later on the nuances of pumpkin or pecan pie.
Mireille Guiliano, author of the bestselling “French Women Don’t Get Fat” believes that many bubbly health benefits are due to its trace minerals such as magnesium, potassium, zinc, and lithium (a natural mood regulator).
Another reason to cheerfully say “cheers!”: Research in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry shows the antioxidant polyphenols in Champagne helped protect brain cells of mice exposed to stress (the lab served both a lovely blanc de blancs and blanc de noir to their little subjects). So you could theorize that sparkling wine in moderation might help our brains better tolerate the holiday rush and the relatives.
What’s in a name? Just as onions must come from Vidalia, Ga., to be called Vidalia onions you can’t call sparkling wine Champagne unless it’s from the Champagne region of France.
“It’s a consumer protection issue,” says Thibaut le Mailloux of the Comité de Champagne. “We are basically trying to rid the world of using Champagne as a generic term including its use to describe paint colors or in fashion.”
Located 90 miles northeast of Paris, Champagne’s climate, chalky soil, and long history of winemaking combine to produce the region’s uniquely elegant sparkling wine. While most Americans can name at least a few top brands such as Moet &Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Piper-Heidsieck and Taittinger, there are more than 5,000 producers in Champagne; some very big and some very small.
So, when you’re choosing Champagne from a restaurant wine list or at a wine shop take note of wineries you might not recognize to discover a diversity of styles and prices.
Vintage Champagne is blended from the wines of a single outstanding year (read: pricier!) with the year listed on the label.
Nonvintage Champagne wines are blended from grapes grown in different years to achieve a consistent house style regardless of vintage variability.
Dosage descriptors are clues to sugar content. At the dry end of the scale is “Extra Brut” (almost no sweetness added) and “Brut.” At the sweet end are ‘“Sec,” “Demi-Sec” and “Doux” (which is very sweet). More than 90 percent of Champagne wines are categorized as “Brut.”