Sparkling Wines, What to Choose and to Safely Open Them.

Sparkling winesWith New Year’s Eve fast approaching, it’s high time for a primer on sparkling wines.
The holiday period counts for approximately 25 per cent of sparkling wine, specially champagne, consumption.

Champagne, a region approximately 140 Kms. northeast of Paris, with chalky soil, is the most famous of all sparkling wine producing regions, with an estimated 150 million bottles.

There are many other sparkling wine producing regions all over the world – Loire, Burgundy, Alsace and others In France; Germany; Veneto, and Lombardy (Italy); Russia; Hungary, Catalonia, Spain; California, U.S.A; Ontario and British Columbia (Canada); Australia; New Zealand; Brazil just to name a few.
Sparking wine can be produced by the methode champenoise, (the most elaborate and expensive); or transfer methode or cuve close (less expensive than the previous two), or injection of carbon dioxide and aging; or simply injection carbon dioxide while bottling, being the least expensive.

Buying and serving sparkling wine requires care, and knowledge of production methods, and integrity of the producer.

Here are some brands you can safely try:

Grand Cuvee Brut, Hungaria, Hungary
Brut Reserva, Segura Viudas, Spain
Brut Heredad, Segura Viudas, Spain
Rose 7, Nytimber, England
Pinot Noir Rose, Camel Valley, England
Britagne Rose, Coates and Seely, England
Brut Cuvee, Domaine Chandon, California
Cuvee Napa Brut Prestige, Mumm Napa Valley, California,
Brut Blanc de Blancs, Gloria Ferrer, California
Brut, Chateau des Charmes, Ontario, Canada
Brut Blue Mountain, British Columbia, Canada
Cuvee Tandresse, 2004, Champagne Louise Brison
Brut Rose, 1999, Charles Heidsicek
Rose, Krug
Rose Brut D’Or, Pol Roger
Brut Reserve Rose, Charles Heidsieck
Rose Apanage, Pommery
Terroir Blanc de Blancs, Champagne Agrapat
Blanc de Blancs, Champagne Laherte
Cuvee 735, Champagne Jacqueson
Brut Millesime, 2004, R. Dumon
Majeur Brut, Ayala

There are approximately 4000Champagne producers, most of which are small, and own their vineyards. Their labels carry two letters RM (Recoltant, Manipulant) and represent the best values. Most sell directly to Parisians who travel, and buy directly after tasting samples. Some export in small quantities.

80 per cent of champagne is made from bought grapes, which may or may not lack quality and/or consistency.

Big brands available widely buy grapes, and can afford to advertise and market, but costs are included in the final price of the bottle.

Vintages in Champagnes are declared, i.e only if the vintage is well above average.

Vintage champagne costs more than regular product, but can be cellared longer.

Serving sparkling wine

Always refrigerate for at least 48 hours before service.
While carrying the bottle to the table, never shake or agitate.
First, remove the foil using the ribbon installed.

Secure cork with your finger, and undo the muzzle (wire net) still holding your thumb on the cork.

Tilt the bottle to 45 degrees, grab the cork firmly, and turn the bottle back and forth a few times easing the cork, using the pressure inside the bottle. (Sparkling wine bottles contain more pressure than a car tire).

Never let the cork fly to the ceiling. A light “pop sound” indicated the wine is sound.

Use a tulip shaped specialty designed glass to appreciate the gently escaping bubbles.

Champagne saucers, supposedly copied from the left breast of Marie Antoinette, are better for cocktails, and fruit cocktails, but never for sparking wine.
Always pour the glass half full and top up after a few sips have been taken.
Keep the bottle cold.

Happy New Year.

Hrayr Writer – Hrayr Berberoglu – E-mail – Read his books?
Professor B offers seminars to companies and interested parties on any category of wine, chocolates, chocolates and wine, olive oils, vinegars and dressings, at a reasonable cost.