“Come quickly, I am drinking the stars!” ― Dom Perignon
Many countries make sparkling wine, each of them unique. The best-known sparkling wine is, of course, Champagne. Though much sparkling wine is referred to as Champagne, true Champagne only comes from the namesake area, and is unique in taste, texture and reputation. The Champagne region perfected the bubble-making process, 'méthode champenoise'.
In 'true' Champagne, one or more of only three grapes may be used – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, and the secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle.
Beyond those rules, there are many details involved that make Champagne and its method of winemaking so distinctive, which is why it is emulated in so many winemaking areas. The categories of Champagne, and wine in the Champagne style, include Vintage (made from one specific year and reflecting the characteristics of that year) and Non-Vintage ("NV") (made from two or more years supply of fruit to produce a balanced, predictable house style.
We have some great Australian sparkling houses - some, as in other parts of the world, owned and operated by French Champagne house companies, and you may find their wines similar in style to their French counterparts. Around the globe, sparkling wine hails from South Africa, Canada and South America, to name a few.
In Spain and Italy, Cava and Prosecco are the regional bubbles, both often made in traditional style. These are light and fruity sparklers that are often in the less-than-$30 category, which make them perfect for everyday enjoyment.
World Wine suggestions
While opening an evening of a party or dinner party with a "real" Champagne is great, it is also expensive to maintain your largesse for the whole evening. We recommend that after kicking off with a signature bottle, your guests will be more than happy with a Cremant sparkling wine. For around $30 we have some wonderful Cremants that are every bit as good as their more expensive Champagne cousins. Still French, still Champagne grapes, still exquisite packaging, but sparkling half the price.
Reading the Label
Some Champagnes include all three permitted grapes, some have one or two.
Blanc de Blanc – means "white of white" and is made only of Chardonnay; lighter in style, perfect with shellfish and seafood.
Blanc de Noir – means "white of black" and is a white champagne made from either Pinot Noir or both Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier both red grapes); usually fuller-bodied than blanc de blanc, this style can match with a variety of foods.
Rosé – could be only one grape or all three, but must contain some percentage of a red grape. Can be robust in style and hold its own with a dinner.
Champagne and Sparkling Styles:
Some are bone dry, while others are off-dry and still others are sweet. The level of sweetness depends on the last step before the cork is inserted, dosage:
Extra Brut or Brut Naturale – Bone dry - the driest of the dry. Brut – Dry. This is the typical style of Champagne, with no sweetness. Sec – Still very dry but with a hint of sweetness. Demi-sec- While the definition is half dry, think of it as half sweet. This wine will be fairly sweet. Doux – also known as rich, this wine is the sweetest you can get in Champagne –over 5% sugar. It's a dessert in itself and very rare.