FC IORCSKT TAIL
The weather may be
frightful, but a holiday
gathering with champagne
is always delightful. Learn
a few of the basics before you
pick up that glass of bubbly
Champagne and holiday parties are a classic pairing—the
perfect way to celebrate a spirited gathering with friends and
family (not to mention making excellent gifts). But before you
pop the cork this holiday season—and release the estimated
56 million bubbles in the average bottle of sparkling wine—
take heed of a few bubbly basics.
Although champagne is a sparkling wine, not all sparkling
wines are champagne. Real champagne comes from the Champagne region of France, where the area’s white, chalky soil and
cool climate create a unique creamy flavor. Other sparklers produced outside of the region include affordable cavas from Spain,
fruity proseccos from Italy and sparkling wines from California.
What makes all sparkling wines unique, of course, are the
ubiquitous bubbles, and there are two ways to get
them. One is via the methode Champenoise in which
a secondary fermentation takes place inside of each
bottle, causing trapped carbon dioxide gases to
dissolve in the liquid. Also called methode traditio-nale, it can take as along as six years to produce the
tiny, elegant bubbles that most associate with fine
sparkling wine. The second method, referred to as
the Charmat process, takes place in large vats—as
opposed to within individual bottles—and is a bit
like carbonating soda.
Both Champagne and California sparklers
use predominately the same grapes—
chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.
These grapes are well suited to cooler climes;
however, California grapes have the advan-
tage of greater stability in terms of weather
conditions. They may both share some of
the same flavor characteristics (descriptors
include doughy, biscuit and toast), but they
A French classic, Vueve Clicquot is an ideal
champagne to serve with a meal.
vary in color and body. Champagne as a rule does not produce
as many rosés or sparkling wines made entirely from pinot noir
(blanc de noir) as California does.
Some of the more well-known labels from Champagne include Laurent-Perrier, Moët & Chandon, Mumm and, of course,
Dom Perignon (named for the Benedictine monk credited with
creating the first bubbly in Champagne in the 1600s). If you plan
to serve your bubbly with a meal, choose a full-style champagne
like Vueve Clicquot or Krug.
From California producers, the bubbly list consists of Gloria
Ferrer, Domaine Chandon, Roederer Estate and Korbel, to name a
few. Some of these houses, like Chandon, for instance, have their
homes in France as well. These French champange producers now
create American sparkling wines that are more reasonably priced
than their continental cousins. Look for such labels as Mumm
Napa Valley and Taittinger’s Domaine Carneros.