Champagne corks are built from several sections and are referred to as agglomerated corks. The mushroom shape that occurs in the transition is a result of the bottom section, which is in contact with the wine, being composed of two stacked discs of pristine cork, cemented to the upper portion which is a conglomerate of ground cork and glue. Prior to insertion, a sparkling wine cork is almost 50% larger than the opening of the bottle. Originally they start as a cylinder and are compressed prior to insertion into the bottle.
Over time their compressed shape becomes more permanent and the distinctive “mushroom” shape becomes more apparent. The aging of the Champagne post-disgorgement can to some degree be told by the cork, as the longer it has been in the bottle the less it returns to its original cylinder shape. Champagne is usually served in a Champagne flute, whose characteristics include a long stem with a tall, narrow bowl, thin sides and an etched bottom. The Victorian coupe – according to legend, designed using a mould of Marie Antoinette’s left breast as a birthday present to her husband, Louis XVI – tends to disperse the nose and over-oxygenate the wine. Champagne is always served cold; its ideal drinking temperature is 7 to 9 °C (45 to 48 °F). Often the bottle is chilled in a bucket of ice and water before opening, which also ensures the Champagne is less gassy and can be opened without spillage. Champagne buckets are made specifically for this purpose and often have a larger volume than standard wine-cooling buckets to accommodate the larger bottle, and more water and ice.
Pouring sparkling wine while tilting the glass at an angle and gently sliding in the liquid along the side will preserve the most bubbles, as opposed to pouring directly down to create a head of “mousse”, according to the study On the Losses of Dissolved CO2 during Champagne serving. Colder bottle temperatures also result in reduced loss of gas. The industry is also developing Champagne glasses designed specifically to reduce the amount of gas lost.
On 18 April 2007, the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry published the results of a recent joint study by the University of Reading and University of Cagliari that showed moderate consumptions of Champagne may help the brain cope with the trauma of stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. The research noted that the high amount of the antioxidant polyphenols in sparkling wine can help prevent deterioration of brain cells due to oxidative stress. During the study scientist exposed two groups of mice with blanc de blancs (100% Chardonnay composition) and blanc de noir (Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier based) and a control group with no exposure to Champagne. All groups were then subjected to high levels of neurotoxicity similar to what the human brain experiences during inflammatory conditions.
Champagne is primarily a product of vast blending – of different grape varieties, different vintages and different vineyards – with a typical non-vintage blend being composed of grapes from up to 80 different vineyards. However for their prestige cuvee (such as Moët et Chandon’s Dom Pérignon or Louis Roederer’s Cristal) Champagne producers will often limit the grape sources to only Grand cru (and sometimes Premier crus) vineyards. While single vineyard Champagnes are rare, they do exist, such as Krug’s Clos du Mesnil coming from the Grand cru vineyard located near Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. Grower Champagnes, the product of a single producer and vineyard owner, located in Grand cru villages will often label their wines “100% Grand cru” if their wines qualify for the designation.