You've heard the old saying, "location, location, location" when it comes to real estate or business matters but how about wine? Well, it's the same for a number of wines including champagne. The French state that you can't call your sparkling wine champagne unless it comes from the champagne region of France. Although we use the term interchangeably, true champagne must come from the Champagne region of France. Other countries produce champagne-style wines but in deference to France call them by different names: Spain makes Cava, Italy makes Spumante or Prosecco, Germany has Sekt and America makes sparkling wine/but I've also seen some labels that call themselves "California champagne."
The cheaper the champagne the larger the bubbles. There are a number of different methods to get the bubbles into sparking wine. With cheaper sparklers, carbonation is shot into the bottle with a pump. Quality sparking wines are made in the traditional French method called méthode champenoise or méthode traditionelle-- a time-consuming process that allows the bubbles to form through natural fermentation.
Like any other wine, champagne varies in body from light to full. It also varies in sweetness from dry to sweet. The driest champagnes are called extra brut, followed by brut, extra dry, sec, demi-sec and doux. Each of these terms refers to the residual sugar in the wine. Extra Brut wines have 0 to 0.6% sugar while a Doux style will have more than 5% sugar. Everything else falls in between.
Champagne should be served chilled between 40 and 50 degrees F. Cold subdues the flavors in the wine so cheap sparklers should be quite chilled while better vintages can be served at 50 degrees F. A good champagne should be refrigerated for about 2 hours prior to serving. That should ensure just the right temperature.
Although it's fun to "pop" a bottle of champagne the proper method of opening sparkling wine is to twist the bottle gently to release the cork. There is a demonstration in the video.
To open a bottle of sparkling wine:
Some notes serving:
I can't always afford an expensive sparkling wine, so I like to make a champagne cocktail.
All you need is a bottle of sparkling wine. I usually use brut or extra dry, myself - a few sugar cubes and a bottle of Angostura Bitters. Drop a sugar cube into a champagne flute, add two dashes of bitters and top with sparkling wine. Delicious!
Thanks vasettle! ~ Chef Erin
What an excellent blog! I love the part in your video about the old French saying that when you pop the cork, it should sound like the sigh of a contented woman. Very descriptive! And memorable. I've already recounted the story to a bunch of my friends! Thank you!