& COOKING ARTICLE
by Greg Meserole
you are somewhat familiar with the region then you dont
need my advice on buying Champagne or any further info
on the home of the bubbly, so leave now and go drink
something. If you are not that familiar with Champagne
then I will proceed to give you a little run down. I
think this quote from Waynes World is a good place
to start . . .
I dont believe Ive ever had French
Champagne before . . .
Benjamin Kane: Oh, actually all champagne
is French, its named after the region. Otherwise
its sparkling white wine. Americans of course
dont recognize the convention so it becomes
that thing of calling all their sparkling wine champagne,
even though by definition theyre not.
that gets to the point of people calling anything that
sparkles, Champagne. When in reality only wines from
Champagne can bear the name. If a fine sparkling wine
is from California, then we classify it as just that,
is the northern most winemaking region in France and
the only three grapes that are used in this region are
Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. Both Pinots
are red grapes and the Chardonnay, white. There are
close to 200 Champagne houses in the region and about
a quarter of those can be found selling their product
in the U.S. Many of the well respected Champagnes houses
that you will find represented on the shelves of your
local wine store are:
list of Champagne producers above are always sure bets
for quality, beautifully crafted wines. They offer Non-Vintage
Champagnes, Vintage Champagnes, Reserves, Roses,
Prestige Cuvées, and the list goes on.
Non-Vintage offering from all these houses are their
blend of grapes from different years and are the most
inexpensive and consistent from year to year. The Non-Vintage
will represent the house style and range from delicate
and lite, to powerful and robust. Non-Vintage is a great
way to go and offers up excellent wines year after year.
Champagne is just what it sounds like. A pressing of
grapes from one year that the Champagne house classifies
as a vintage year. Only the best vintages are established
as a vintage year, therefore, they are quite a bit more
expensive and produced in smaller quantities.
Prestige Cuvées from these top Champagne houses
are the best of the best. Best grapes from the best
villages, always made from the first pressing of the
grapes, aged in the bottle longer than most other offerings,
made ONLY in vintage years, and priced to keep you working
two jobs to afford the stuff. With names like Cristal,
La Grande Dame, and Dom Perignon,
we have all seen them in the glass cases at the finer
are made in different degrees of dryness and there is
something out there for everyones taste. Brut
seems to be the most popular and is the driest style
that is produced. It has the least residual sugar and
thus produces the driest style. The next driest is labeled
Extra Dry, then Sec becomes sweeter, and then Demi-Sec
which is even sweeter, and finally Doux, the sweetest
of the group.
all of this info at your fingertips it is really only
when you start to taste different Champagnes that it
all starts to fall into place. That is basically the
case with all wines, so I always recommend to just drink,
drink and drink some more. Or if you are uptight about
all that drinking, then you can call it tasting.
To get those wines to sparkle the winemakers let the
wine ferment a second time in the bottle and presto,
sparkling wine. Actually it is not presto, it is more
work than I would want to do as a winemaker, but these
guys from Champagne would not have it any other way.
It is called the Méthode Champenoise, and it
goes a little something like this.
the grapes and get the juice.
it ferment. First fermentation involves as usual,
the Sugar in the grape juice being converted
by the enzymes in the Yeasts into Alcohol and
it. Blending of the three grapes used in Champagne.
Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. Blending
of vintages and vineyards. The winemaker will
work tirelessly to bring all these still wines
into a perfect blend.
more sugar and yeast. This is called the Liqueur
de Tirage, and this is added in the form of
a syrupy mixture and starts the second fermentation.
Fermentation. This takes place in the bottle
and leaves the carbon dioxide no place to go
so, presto, bubbles in the wine.
bottle sit and age.
it. It is called Riddling when the poor guy
in charge of turning bottles, hand turns thousands
of bottles just slightly while also gradually
tipping them down a bit as they sit in a big
rack facing at an angle downwards. The riddler
does this again and again over a couple months
time and eventually has the bottle almost turned
all the way upside-down. All this work and some
sore wrists to gradually get the sediment that
is thrown off from the second fermentation down
to the neck of the bottle.
the sediment out. This is called Dégorgement,
and after the bottle has it’s sediment to the
neck of the bottle, actually all the way down
to the temporary cap, it is dipped into a freezing
brine solution and uncapped and sediment removed.
A bit more wine and cane sugar is added to the
bottle and determines the dryness level of the
it and put a wire cage over that thing so it
doesn’t pop out and put out an
now you can get an idea of the labor and time that goes
into the wines of Champagne.
article came from and was reproduced with kind permission
of the guys at The Wine School
which was part of DamnGoodWine.com
Hub-UK : firstname.lastname@example.org