Sparkling Wine

Understanding Champagne

The problem with Champagne (not that there are many when you’re sipping on a GH Mumm Cordon Rouge) is that people think it’s a type of drink when it’s actually the region the drink comes from. True Champagne is a product of a precise blend and a century-old art form. Those with confusion etched across their faces can keep reading.

Definition and Origin:

Yes, it’s a sparkling wine. That much is true. But it hails from the Champagne region, delimited to the northeast of France. One fun fact is that the name is actually protected legally (wow!). This means any bottle labelled “Champagne” must come from this exclusive territory. You can’t just make wine in a basement and go around calling it Champagne. The grapes most often used in Champagnes are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, each adding its unique essence to the bubbly banquet.

Types of Champagne:

The most familiar types are categorised by their sweetness level, or “dosage.” These may range from Brut Nature, which is the driest, to Doux, the sweetest variety. You’ll see all sorts of names when shopping online including Brut, Extra Brut, Demi-Sec, and Rosé. Be sure to learn about them all and try them all too.

Production Methods:

The traditional method (méthode Champenoise to give it its fancy name) is the gold standard for making Champagne. This labour-intensive process includes a second fermentation in the bottle, which results in those characteristic tiny bubbles. Stainless steel tanks are used in Italy for Prosecco, and this is known as the Charmat method.

Exploring Sparkling Wines

Diversity of Sparkling Wines:

Various geographic regions and grape varieties have contributed to a plethora of sparkling wines, each with its distinctive narrative. Examples include Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain, and Sekt from Germany, all showcasing a unique essence of their terroirs. That’s a whole lot of wine to try (not complaining!).

Production Techniques:

While Champagne adheres to the méthode Champenoise tradition, various sparkling wines employ unique techniques. Prosecco, for example, is often crafted using the efficient and cost-effective Charmat method, resulting in distinct characteristics and mouthfeel.

Regional Variations and Flavour Profiles:

The diverse climates and soils in various regions naturally impact the flavour profile of sparkling wines. Prosecco often features fruitier and floral notes, whereas Cava tends to have a more earthy and full-bodied character.

Buying and Storing

Factors to Consider When Purchasing:

Perhaps the occasion will take centre stage before anything else – seeing your child graduating deserves high-quality wine. But this doesn’t mean you’ll abandon your budget or any food pairings you may have in mind. Also, look for reputable producers who are committed to quality.

Storage Conditions:

Proper storage is vital. Keep your sparkling wine away from light and at a stable temperature, ideally in a wine fridge or in a cool, dark place such as a cellar. The idea is to keep the cork moist and you can’t do this by standing it up – so don’t fall into this trap.

Shelf Life Recommendations:

While Champagnes and sparkling wines can vary in their ageing potential, a general rule of thumb is to consume them within about three years of purchase. However, vintage and prestige cuvées may cellar much longer if stored correctly.

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