The Perils of Making Champagne Vinegar


To say that we’re not heavy drinkers is an understatement. I don’t often have a beer and, when I do, it’s usually at the invitation of someone else. I will not have more than one beer at a sitting. Occasionally, when guests are over, Erin and I do enjoy a nice wine, but we usually do not finish the bottle, and even when you cork wine, wine left out as long as we leave it out tends to turn into vinegar.

Which is not a bad thing. Erin knows a number of recipes which make use of vinegar, and she can make a good vinaigrette dressing for salads if she doesn’t cook up the dregs of our wine bottles. She sometimes helps the transformation of wine into vinegar along by dropping in a strand of dry spaghetti or two to soak in the wine, and feed the enzymes that are busy consuming the alcohol and turning the liquid nicely sour.

While we were driving over the holidays, my parents kindly stocked our fridge with supplies for when we got back. We expected our good friends Wayne, Marguerite and Teri to arrive the day after in order to kick off our New Year’s celebrations. With Dan and Cameron also attending, my parents decided it was a good idea to give us a bottle of champagne to aid our celebrations. Again, much appreciated.

But throughout the night, we’d had wine, supplied by Dan. And fondue. And steamed-up Dim Sum. And various other foods and drink. We opened the champagne at midnight (avoiding denting our thirteen-foot ceiling with the cork, as happened last year), had some, but had about two-thirds of the bottle left over when we were done. We were tired. We were full. We were not interested in more drinking, and chose instead to watch the wonderful Shaun of the Dead.

I thought it unwise to recork the champagne. In most cases, re-corking was impossible, but this champagne had a plastic cork that could be placed back on the bottle. However, I remembered when I inadvertently created a balloon while trying to seal off a champagne bottle with seran wrap, so I left the bottle open. Nine days later, I look on top of the fridge and see that the bottle is still there, still two-thirds full, and still uncorked. The champagne was dead to the world.

Right, I thought. We’re making champagne vinegar.

I thought I would help the process along by dropping in four strands of dry spaghetti, as I’d seen Erin do with normal white wine. I got the strands out of the cupboard, reached up above the fridge, and dropped the strands into the narrow neck. They slid in.

Immediately, the space between the champagne liquid and the top of the bottle vanished into a mass of white foam. I had about a tenth of a second to think, “well, that can’t be good”, before champagne immediately began gushing a foot out of the bottle like some miniature geyser. I yelled, and Erin came running just in time to see me wrestling Old Faithful off the top of the refrigerator.

Before I finally got my thumb over the top of the bottle, establishing an air-tight seal, we had champagne on the cupboards, champagne on the counters, champagne in my sweater, and a streak of champagne across the ceiling.

The air-tight seal seemed to stop the flow. The white mass of foam disappeared, and I removed my thumb and heard a big burp of carbon dioxide. The champagne continued to fizz mightily around the strands of spaghetti, but the geyser was gone, and Erin was free to laugh at me.

The bottle is now half full with what will become champagne vinegar.

In other news, my rundown on how to take down a Christmas tree is becoming a post-holiday classic. My web page is now second on the Google search on “how to take down a Christmas tree”, and my traffic is spiking because of it.

Voting is still going on for the 2004 Canadian Blog Awards. In an interesting move, Robert McClelland has removed the names of the blogs from the ongoing vote tally. All you see are the number of votes, the distribution of the votes, and just a string of blogs named “Nominee”.

By this action, Robert has stopped group campaigning for the 2004 Canadian Blog Awards cold. Nominees are left to say, “won’t you please vote for my blog” instead of trying to mobilize forces with “we’re just 40 votes behind! Vote, damn you, vote!” I believe by doing this, Robert has taken an edge off of any crass campaigns, and that’s a good thing, but it has also taken an edge off the drama.

Consider, for the Best Liberal Blog, two blogs appear to be neck and neck. Who are they? Warren Kinsella and POGGE? Calgary Grit? Who?

We won’t know until the 16th. And although I see the advantages, the jury is still out over whether or not this is a good thing overall.

Anyway, kudos to Robert for taking the time to do this, and taking it so seriously.

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