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Toast with Champagne for a magical evening

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 evening.

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 law.

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 wines.

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.

Tagged: Wine Experiments, valentine's day, Champagne