New Years Eve wouldn’t be the same without raising a glass of Champagne and toasting in the New Year. But as much as we love it for it’s sophistication and crisp flavor, many of us don’t know much about this bubbly favorite. Read on for a quick tutorial on everything from the grapes that make it pop to the proper glass for serving.
The name Champagne can only be used for a sparkling wine that is produced in France, specifically in the Champagne region. Legend has it that Dom Perignon created the first bottle in Champagne, France and was also the first to use cork from a cork-oak tree to seal the bottle. Once the bottle was sealed, fermentation continued and was completed, creating the first bottle of Champagne.
Today, authentic Champagne still comes from France. But vineyards from around the world create sparkling wines that mimic the taste and sparkle of traditional Champagne with grapes grown in other regions.
Making the Bubbly
Champagne is most often created from three separate varieties of grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. There are Champagnes made solely from Chardonnay grapes, others made only of Pinot Noir Grapes, and still others that are created from a blend of all three. Though most of us know Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier as red wines, their juice is actually white and is surrounded by a red skin. Therefore, Champagne is traditionally white unless the juice is allowed to come into contact with the skin of the dark grapes. When that contact occurs, Champagne Rose, or pink Champagne is born.
If you’re wondering just what makes Champagne bubble, the answer is quite simple: Champagne is given its trademark fizz through the process of fermentation. While all wines undergo fermentation, Champagnes go through a second fermentation process once it has been bottled due to excess sugars from the grapes. The fermentation causes the release of carbon dioxide, and presto! You have sparkling bubbles that dance on your tongue.
The proper glass is also essential for serving Champagne correctly. The glass should always be long and somewhat of a flute shape to retain the flavor and fizz of the Champagne bubbles. If you’re not keen on quite so much fizz, simply stir the Champagne with a silver spoon to dissipate some of the bubbles.
Pop the Top
While it’s exciting to hear the loud “pop” of a champagne bottle as you remove the cork, be very careful when opening the pressurized bottles. Begin by removing the foil, and then direct the bottle away from any person or object before gently removing the wire cage that holds the cork in place. Finally, lightly twist the cork from side to side while pulling up. You’ll still hear the celebratory pop, but you shouldn’t see the cork whizzing by or champagne spilling from the top of the bottle.
What’s the Blanc?
Blanc de Blancs refers to wines made from white grapes, chardonnay, in particular when it comes to Champagne. These tend to be crisp and elegant with vibrant orchard-fruit tones.
Blanc de Noirs refers to white sparkling wines made from red grapes Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier in Champagne. The flavor of the wines retains hints of red fruits and tend to be somewhat richer than their Blanc de Blanc cousins.
Rose sparkling wines are pink to quite red wines, much like the still version. Roses can be among the richest of sparkling wines and have fruit flavors that lean decidedly in the berry direction.
How Sweet is it?
Brut Natural, Nature, or Brut Zero have less than 3 grams per liter of residual sugar and are considered dry.
Extra-Brut have up to 6 grams per liter of residual sugar and still taste dry but are richer and fruitier than Brut Nature.
Brut have up to 15 grams per liter of residual sugar and can begin to be noticeably sweet, though producers generally keep Brut fairly dry.
Extra Sec, Extra Seco, or Extra Dry have 12-20 grams of sugar per liter. These wines seem even sweeter as they tend to be at the upper end of their range.
Sec or Seco have between 17 and 35 grams of sugar per liter and are noticeably sweet.
Demi-Sec or Semi-Seco have between 33 and 50 grams per liter and are fairly sweet to quite noticeably sweet and and very near dessert level in their sweetness.
Our Favorite Go-to Bubbles!!
Let’s just say it, we all love Champagne, I personally could drink it everyday. Mimosas for brunch and a few sips late in the afternoon with the girls.
Here are a few of my favorites. They range in price from $15 to $150. Any of these would be a great choice for NYE.
1.Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut Champagne (Our publisher Dena’s fave!!!)
2. Mionetto Prosecco Brut (my favorite under $15 choice)
3. Perrier Jouet Champagne Flower ’00
4. Perrier Jouet Rose Blason de France (My fave!!)
And then there’s the always favorite Dom Perignon, for those special, special occasions.
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