Champagne: Bubbly 101
All About Champagne and Sparkline Wine
Many people around the world will be tilting a glass of bubbling champagne, as we countdown the end of the audts. As the 2010s is welcomed, many toasts will happen with a bottle of sparkling wine, such as champagne or prosecco.
Champagne, prosecco, asti, or whatever you call the sparkling beverage in your glass, is raised to celebrate the moment as we embark on a journey into a new year (December 1st / January 1st).
Champagne is not only a beverage, but a region in France where some of the best sparkling wine is produced. According to the Treaty of Madrid, a bottle of sparkling should not be labeled 'champagne' unless it originates from that region.
Most sparkling wines are a combination of grapes over several vintages (crops within a specific year). High-end champagnes contain grapes harvested from one single year, such as Dom Perignon.
Bubbly Terms 101:
Prestige cuvee: This is a proprietary blended wine, and is usually considered to be the top of a producer's range.
Blanc de noirs: This is a white wine that is produced entirely from black grapes (white of blacks).
Blanc de blancs: This type of wine is made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes (white of whites).
Rose champagne: Commonly referred to as pink champagne, this beverage is derived from soaking black grape skins in the wine, and/or blending small amounts of red wine.
However, price is most likely one of the driving factors people consider when choosing with champagne to serve at a New Year's Eve celebration. But, if you're not familiar with sparkling wines, choosing which champagne to purchase can be an intimidating task. As you stroll along the shelves in liquor stores and some grocery chains, the offerings seem endless. Often, people, unfamiliar with sparkling wines, end up choosing a champagne that is packaged in an attractive bottle.
Actually, champagne is formulated no differently than any other wine. Harvested grapes are pressed before the initial fermentation. The acidic yield is blended and bottled with yeast and sugar, to create a secondary fermentation within the bottle. It is this second fermentation that creates the bubbles through carbonation.
Once the yeast has performed its magic on the sugar, the yeast dies and becomes lees. The bottles are stored horizontally to allow the wine to “age on lees” for a minimum of 15 months. Then the winemaker turns the bottles upside down so the lees settle to the bottom.
Less Expensive Champagne: At this point, when the dead yeast has congregated on the bottom, the bottles are opened, the lees removed, and a bit of sugar is added. The bottles will be corked.
High-End Champagne: The lees are not removed, and the bottles are carefully rotated on a schedule so the lees settle in the neck of the bottle. This process can range over a period of 18 months to five years. This process produces complexity through the additional contact with the lees. The time required to capture the complexity will produce a high-end champagne and a higher price tag.
At this point, it might be of interest that aging and the amount of sugar added to sparkling wine after the second fermentation dictates the beverages level of sweetness. Some terms you'll see on bottle labels, and their meaning:
Brute Natural/Brut Zero: Less than 3 grams of sugar per liter.
Extra Brut: Less than 6 grams of sugar.
Brut: Less than 15 grams of sugar.
Extra Sec/Extra Dry: 12 to 20 grams of sugar.
Sec: 17 to 35 grams of sugar.
Demi-sec: 33 to 50 grams of sugar.
Doux: More than 50 grams of sugar.
Some people think pink champagne is sweet, but they would be wrong. If you're looking for a sweet champagne, look for the term “doux” on the label.