Sparkling Wine - It Goes with Everything!

Sparkling Wine.jpg

As we continue through the holiday season, the question of ‘which wine to buy?’ is constantly on our minds. And, the answer in any situation can always be ‘Sparkling wine!”

Yes, sparking wines are maybe the most versatile wines out there. For brunch, sparking wine is an obvious answer. If you are having an early evening hors d'oeuvre party featuring anything from popcorn to caviar, sparking wine is the answer. A steak, chicken, pork or seafood dinner - they all work with sparkling wines. And, yes, desserts go great with sparkling wines.

By the way, try serving your sparkling wine in a white wine glass. After all, it’s a white wine. And a standard white wine glass will allow you to enjoy the sparkling wine while also allowing you to experience all the wonderful aromas that a flute precludes.

So, whether you are splurging on the real-deal Champagne from France, or simply opening a bottle of Cava, Prosecco or any other sparkling wine, know that it will go with everything this holiday season, and all year long. Cheers!

Wine Fun Facts - Champagne

champagne-glasses.jpg

Champagne is probably the best known wine in the world. And, there’s a lot to know it about this wine.

Here are some fun-facts about Champagne:

  • Champagne is not made from Champagne grapes

  • Champagne is typically produced from three grapes — Pinot Noir (Yes! A red wine grape!), Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier

  • To be called Champagne, it must be produced in the Champagne region of France. Otherwise, it’s called Sparkling Wine

  • California can produce Champagne – such as Korbel, Cook’s or André – and it is perfectly legal to be called Champagne. The loophole that makes this legal stems from a ruling in 2005, after two decades of court battles, when the U.S. and the EU reached an agreement. In exchange for easing trade restrictions on wine, the American government agreed that Champagne would no longer appear on domestic wine labels – that is, unless a producer was already using the name

  • The first step in making Champagne is to make the wine, like any other wine, in a barrel or tank and bottle it

  • The wine becomes carbonated by a second fermentation inside the bottle that is initiated by adding a solution of sugar and yeast. As the yeast consumes the sugar, it gives off carbon dioxide which stays trapped in the wine since the bottle is capped

  • Champagne bottle are stored with their neck down during the second fermentation so that the yeast will settle in the neck

  • The upside down bottles are regularly turned to ensure all the yeast ends up in the neck of the bottle in a process called riddling

  • The Champagne bottle is then opened and the spent yeast is removed or disgorged

  • Finally, some additional wine and sugar is added (the dosage) to balance the Champagne’s acidity

  • This process of making Champagne is called the méthode champenoise

So, there you have it. A few fun facts about the most famous sparkling wine in the world - Champagne. Cheers!

Ever Wonder? Are Champagne Grapes Used to Produce Champagne?

Champagne Grapes_2.JPG

During a recent stroll through the produce aisle of my favorite grocery store, I saw a display labeled “Champagne Grapes.” They are beautiful bunches of small red-ish grapes. And, they look really good. But, the first thing that came to my mind was to question the naming of these grapes. Because (spoiler alert) Champagne is not made from Champagne grapes.

Champagne grapes are very small, about the size of a pea, and are round, and grow in tightly packed clusters. The seedless berries can be dark red, deep magenta, or black and have delicate, thin skin that almost pops open when bitten. Also known as Black Corinth grapes, or when dried, the Zante currant, Champagne grapes are the smallest variety of all seedless grapes and are commonly used for baking and garnishes.

So, this may leave you asking “What grapes are used to produce Champagne?”

Here’s a little bit about Champagne.

Sparkling wines produced in the small French region of Champagne are the only sparkling wines that may legally be labeled 'Champagne.'  And because of this region's northern location and cool weather, three primary grapes have been found to grow best and hence are the basis for Champagne. The three grapes are Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.  To this day, most Champagne relies on these grapes. But, Champagne producers are also allowed to use Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Petit Meslier and Arbane. But, when these latter grapes are used, they are typically used in very small quantities.

So, sorry, but no Champagne grapes are used in the production of Champagne. But, they are quite good to eat! Here’s to enjoying a nice glass of Champagne and some Champagne grapes. Cheers!

How to Pick the Right Sweetness of a Champagne or Sparkling Wine

Glasses of Champagne.jpg

The wine world is confusing enough. Then, you find yourself standing on the wine aisle trying to figure out what the different styles of Champagne and sparkling wine mean. And, it’s not straight forward.

Champagne and most sparkling wines will have words on their labels to indicate their sweetness level.

So, here’s your quick guide for choosing the one that best fits your palate:

Brut Nature - This style is bone dry. It has little or no sugar content (0–3 g/L sugar).

Extra Brut This style is also bone dry but, it can have up to twice the sugar level of Brut Nature (0–6 g/L sugar). But, this little bit of sweetness creates a wonderful balance with Champagne’s naturally high acidity.

Brut This is the most common style. While considered “Dry” this style can have twice the sugar of Extra Brut (0–12 g/L sugar).

Extra Dry This is the one that always confuses people. This style is sweeter which actually makes it also taste a bit Fruity (12–17 g/L sugar).

Dry The confusing continues. This style is getting up there in sweetness (17–32 g/L sugar).

Demi-Sec Now you’re talking Sweet (32–50 g/L sugar). This style works well with desserts or cheeses.

Doux This one, while very rare to find, is SWEET (50+ g/L sugar).

A Mystery Wine Tool

I recently received a gift that came in at small flat box. Knowing that good things come in small packages, I lifted the box only to find it to be very heavy.  Odd.  But, what was even more odd was once I opened the box and removed its contents, I still didn’t know what it was.

Champagne Cork Opener_3.JPG

Being a bit perplexed, I asked "What is it?" It looked a bit like a tool that would be used to crack walnuts. But, no, it was not a nut cracker. I was told that is a wine tool. Really?

I finally had to ask “Tell me what it is!” and was told it is a Champagne cork opener!  I’d never seen such a tool and was fascinated. It’s designed to grab the cork (or plastic stopper) in a bottle of sparkling wine.  Once you’ve got a good grip on it, you simply twist and pull and out comes the cork. Without injuring yourself or damaging something in the room.

Now, it may not be as showy or fun as sabering the bottle open (if you’re not familiar with that I’ll cover it in a future blog) but it is quite efficient.  So, if you one who drinks a bit of the bubbly or you know someone who does, this makes a great gift. And, a great conversation piece. Cheers!