Wed, Feb 8, 2012 12:08 PM
It's long been rumored to contain some aphrodisiacs and has the
power to make an evening magical. Think of Marilyn Monroe,
Hollywood glamour or wedding festivities and Champagne is in the
picture. It is said that Champagne is the only drink that leaves a
woman still beautiful after drinking it, the only wine to give
brilliance to her eyes without flushing the face.
Valentine's Day is around the corner and time to look for some
Bubbly to celebrate with and make it an especially romantic
There are many different sparkling wines out there within all kinds
of price ranges, from all kinds of different grapes, and from all
different countries. Let's start with the wines from Champagne, the
region in France that made fizzy wine famous. Technically (and
legally), only these may be called Champagne, though here in the
US, we're less strict about it and don't adhere to European
There are primarily two kinds of Champagne out there: the 90%
produced by the big Champagne houses, and the other 10% made
directly at an estate in the Champagne region. The first is heavily
marketed with sexy images and is produced in large quantities by
blending different grapes from different areas and years to ensure
a consistent flavor profile. The latter is made in small badges to
express the different flavors of the region and its soil.
Both are made using the same technique: After primary fermentation,
blending and bottling, a second alcoholic fermentation is induced
in the bottle by adding several grams of yeast (many have a secret
recipe) and several grams of rock sugar. The champagne bottle is
then capped with a crown cap.
The bottle is then riddled (stored upside down.) After the required
aging, the neck is then frozen, and the cap removed. The pressure
in the bottle forces out the frozen lees (sediment) and the bottle
is quickly corked.
The grapes used in Champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot
Meunier or any combination thereof. The same method is used in
other countries, mainly Spain, South Africa, Argentina, and some
regions of Italy.
However most Italian sparklers are made in the Charmat methode,
where the wine undergoes its second fermentation in large stainless
steel tanks or vessels, often in a series of interconnected tanks
and is bottled under pressure in a continuous process. Prosecco or
Moscato are better suited for such tank fermentation. Most
sparkling wines from Australia, the USA and Germany are made this
way as it is less expensive and labor intensive.
One might call it the 'bulk method' and while it produces some
great sparkling wines, in general the bubbles are larger and don't
last as long in the glass or opened bottle. A third inferior
process pumps carbon dioxide into the finished wine, (much like
carbonated soft drinks.) This is reserved the cheapest of sparkling
Impress your Sweetheart this Valentines Day with the distintive
flavors of a good Champagne and watch the tiny bubbles rise slowly
to the top of your elegant flute glass.