We hope you’ve been enjoying the multitude of wonderfully delicious and diverse alternative white wines we chatted about last issue.
As you may recall we were champions for the ABC Club. Where we introduced our top ten alternative white wine choices outside the dominant domain of the almighty chardonnay. Hence the “Anything but Chardonnay” Club.
Never one to sit on our laurels, we are now armed with saber and flutes, on our current crusade to bring Champagne and Sparkling wines to the people!
With a plethora of brilliant bubblies now being produced from around the world, there’s a sparkling wine for you, just waiting to pop its cork. And yes, fabulous for festivities but also perfect for partnering with an array of foods due to its vibrant acidity. That acidity can act as a turbo charger for flavour in a recipe too, so say our award winning Chefs who have created sumptuous recipes just for us, using sparkling wine as a key ingredient. We’ll begin our journey by exploring a variety of ways of saying “bubbly” from Champagne to Cava, to Prosecco and Sekt.
First stop, we’ll linger here a while, the most famous wine in the word, synonymous with glamour, celebration and decadence, Champagne.
The name alone elicits images of excitement, of joy, of success, romance, and beautiful people! amazing the power of a 9-letter word!
Speaking of which, a few perfunctory words on Champagne, if you will. Champagne is a place, a wine-growing region approximately 90 miles northeast of Paris. In order for a sparkling wine to be called champagne, it must come from this A.O.C. (appellation d’origine controlee) region and follow the rules of production as outlined by the meticulous Classic Method, or Methode Champenoise.
What makes Champagne so special? It’s the combination of the soils, the terroir and the grapes that uniquely blend to provide the ultimate ingredient for the finest sparkling wine in the world. The producers, or Champenois as they say in Champagne, have the advantage too of experience and skill, with over three centuries, practice makes perfect!
Champagne comes to us in many styles, from the Blanc de Blanc, made exclusively with Chardonnay, the Blanc de Noirs, you got it, red grapes only, and rose champagnes too. Pink or rose Champagnes are made by either adding a small proportion of red wine to the blend or less commonly, allowing the juice to remain in contact with the dark skinned grapes for a short time during fermentation. Vintage Champagnes, typically 3 or 4 only in a decade, and Prestige Cuvees representing a champagne house’s best, are also out there; the possibilities are endless.
When it comes to a toast, Champagne obviously rules as the beverage of choice, but what about as an aperitif, or as a partner to accompany you throughout your meal from appetizers to dessert? And at snack time, there’s nothing better than Champagne with potato chips! Perhaps an NV Brut would be nice?
With all the different styles of champagne, there’s a bottle of bubbly to suit every occasion, every dish and everyone’s palate! For a few Champagne and food pairing tips, read on!
Champagne and oysters: well known to be a match made in heaven. Opt for a delicate young Brut Champagne. The acidity acts like a squeeze of lemon, while the crisp bubbles counter the fatty slippery texture of the oyster.
Blanc de Blanc Champagnes are elegant and tangy, they go well with lighter style foods beautiful, with goat cheese and sushi.
Blanc de Noirs Champagnes have the complexity of red wines and are well suited to lighter meat dishes such as veal, partridge or pigeon.
Brut Champagnes, crisp and dry with good acidity cut through the fat of fried foods!did we mention potato chips? Oh yes, we did, obviously a weakness of ours.
Serve the sweeter Champagnes with fresh fruit, berries and other desserts that are not too sweet.
Is this a dry style Champagne or sweet? If it says Brut on the label the wine is totally dry. Other styles from least to most sweet, are; extra dry, sec (dry), demi-sec (off-dry) and doux (sweet)
The question beckons, is there any time a Champagne just won’t do? Here’s what Madame Lilly Bollinger of Bollinger Champagne, and James Bond movie fame, said when asked her opinion “I drink it when I am sad. Sometimes I drink it when I am alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it when I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it unless I’m thirsty”. Well said, Madame, The Wine Ladies couldn’t agree more!
Moving on, although Champagne is dear to our hearts, other sparkling options await us, wonderfully delightful and unique with new flavours and styles to embrace.
Spain is our next stop with its incredibly valued sparkling wine, they call Cava.
Easy on the pocketbook, and easy to enjoy any time any where, these bubblies will please your palate by their lonesome, in a cocktail or with a variety of dishes. Finding great Cava under $20.00 is not unusual.
Cavas are made in the classic method, and just as in Champagne are restricted to certain grape varieties. They too must come from a list of designated municipalities including Catalonia. This is where close to 95% of all cava is produced. One of the reasons Cava is so affordable is the widespread use of highly efficient modern methods of production. Keeping the costs way down. This coupled with high-yielding grapes provides a winning price/quality ratio for Cava. The proof clearly being in the bottle.
A Reserva Cava with a pronounced yeasty, toasty character or a Cava Rosado, a rose with attractive red fruit such as cherries and blackberries are wonderful introductions to the world of Spanish sparkling.
Prosecco, a spirited sparkling wine, and a white grape variety native to the Veneto region in north east Italy.
The home to Verona, the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Julliet. For the jet set, also the base for the famous Bellini cocktail.
This fashionable sparkling wine from Veneto is steadily gaining in popularity. Showing off its allure of freshness and simplicity, clean and lean. No yeasty, buiscuity quality here, as with Champagne. Expect mineral notes, lemony, apples and pear, soft and inviting. The bubbles are a little less tight, having been fermented in a tank. Most often, as opposed to the bottle, but that’s ok, for this uncomplicated well priced sparkling, Prosecco delivers well. Partnering Prosecco with a variety of appetizers is no difficult task either, with their fruit and crisp acids, plus the lively bubbles handling salty or fatty dishes is no problemo!
Finally we come to Sekt, the term used in German speaking countries to describe sparkling wines.
We salute the wine lovers of Germany. They appreciate the joy and diversity of sparkling wines being among the highest consumers/capita in the world.
There are several quality levels of Sekt available for our enjoyment. We would encourage you to seek out those sparklers labeled either Deutscher Sekt or Sekt bA. Simple Sekt, is a sparkling wine that is made with grapes from other countries, while Deutscher Sekt of course uses German grapes.
Taking it one step further, if you can source a Sekt b.A. (b.A. means from a specific region) these sparkling wines are the pick of the crop! Sort of to speak. Finally, “the piece de resistance”, we said there were several levels, when it comes to Sekt is finding a b.A. This includes a vineyard site, the name of the grape varietal, and/or a vintage. These are the superior sparklers, having undergone strict quality control. Our absolute favorite has got to be, unequivocally, those Sekt which are made with the noble grape variety, the aromatic and racy, Riesling. With its pronounced acidity, these wines are ready and able to do table duty at any time and any place.
I hope we’ve made a compelling case for the bubbly, the one that sparkles, that enchants, that knows, no boundaries. From a toast, Cheers, Salute or Prost, to an appetizer, through to dessert, you can take this special fizz anywhere, anytime!. and you can take that straight to the bank! Speaking of banks, there’s no need to break that either, thanks to the multitude of superb value sparkling wines just waiting to be popped! Explore, experience and enjoy! Did we mention, that a silent hush, rather than a thunderous popping cork is the preferred way of opening Champagne?
Cheers everyone, and please do email us with any sparkling wine favorites, recipes or stories, we’ love to hear from you! We’re twittering too, we’re on facebook and we’re scouting for fans! Have a superb summer, we’ll be back in the fall.