Champagne Wishes: The Tastes of Celebration

We pop it at weddings and pour it for the holidays, gift it to congratulate and sip it to celebrate—but, if we're being honest, Gastropod will seize any occasion to drink champagne. In the second episode of our two-part miniseries on the tastes of celebration, we tell the story of how this sparkling wine went from an unwelcome accident—winemakers considered fizz a flaw!—to a global brand associated with quality, luxury, celebrity, and, above all, fun. Along the way, we explore the science behind the bubbles, get to the bottom of the difference between prosecco, pét-nat, and Perrier-Jouët, and tell the stories of the original Dom Perignon and Veuve Cliquot. Join us now for all that, plus the answer to the question we all secretly wonder: Is champagne really worth the big bucks? Cheers!

Episode Notes

Left, a sample of the fermented grape juice from Carter Estate Winery alongside the sparkling wine it will one day become; right, Cynthia samples Carter Estate's sparkling wine with the guidance of winemaker Jon McPherson. Photos by Nicola Twilley.

Laurel Friel & Rebel Rebel Wine Bar

Lauren Friel is an award-winning sommelier and the owner of Rebel Rebel, a natural wine bar in Somerville, Massachusetts, that hosted Gastropod for our champagne tasting. She is also the co-founder of Dear Annie, a pescatarian wine bar in Somerville.

Becky Sue Epstein

Becky Sue Epstein is a wine and spirits expert and the author of several books on these drinks, including Champagne: A Global History.

Left, large steel Charmat tanks of sparkling wine undergoing primary fermentation; right, wine in a "riddling rack," used in the traditional champagne method to slowly move yeast into the neck of the bottle for disgorgement. Photos by Nicola Twilley.

Jon McPherson & Carter Vineyards

Jon McPherson is the master winemaker for Carter Hospitality, a suite of hotels and vineyards that include South Coast Winery, Carter Estate Winery, and Carter Creek Winery. Jon and his winemaking team make sparkling wines using the traditional méthode champenoise at Carter Estate Winery in Temecula, California, which hosted Gastropod for a tasting.

Yet More Champagne, from Vox

Can't get enough bubbly? Our friends at Eater and Punch have champagne tips and tales to keep your fridge stocked and your fascination fizzing, including a guide to the best cheap and mid-range champagne, picks for the best champagnes under $50, an ode to grower champagne—plus tips on which to try—and an investigation into the demise of the champagne flute.


Click here for a transcript of the show. Please note that the transcript is provided as a courtesy and may contain errors.