While most people still reserve a glass of
or sparkling wine for New Year’s Eve and the occasional toast while out for dinner, you really don’t need a formal reason to pour yourself a glass of bubbly. In fact, Champagne is one of the most food friendly and versatile wines available. I encourage you to sip bubbles just for the shear pleasure of the experience. Champagne
Sparkling wine is made throughout the world, but the name
Champagne is reserved only for the wines from ’s chilly northern wine making region of the same name. The following guide will clarify a few Champagne related terms that you might come across as you wander through the bubbly section of your local wineshop. France
In accordance with the French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée – AOC (a concept similar to
Canada’s VQA system), only certain grape varieties are permitted in the production of Each grape imparts a different character trait to the wine and the three that you are most likely to come across are list below: Champagne.
· Chardonnay (white) – Finesse and Elegance
· Pinot Meunier (red) – Body and Richness
· Pinot Noir (red) – Fruitiness
The term Blanc-de-Blanc will appear on the label to indicate that only Chardonnay was used in the making of the wine. And while less common, Blanc-de-Noirs signifies when the wine is made using only Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier, both dark-skinned grapes.
There are several terms used to describe
but these are the most common styles: Champagne
· Brut (natural) is dry wine
· Sec (dry) is actually off-dry wine
· Demi-Sec (half dry) is slightly sweet wine
The term Brut implies a dry crisp wine, whereas Sec and Demi-Sec show increasingly more sweetness and body. The vast majority of
and sparkling wines produced and those which are available at the LCBO are dry (Brut). Incidentally, all Champagne is fermented dry; it is the addition of the dosage (a mixture of cane or beet sugar and wine) that balances the wine’s natural acidity and dictates the final degree of sweetness. Champagne
Vintage vs. Non-Vintage
Using a process known as assemblage,
is normally a blend (cuvee) of vintages and therefore in theory the wine should always taste the same. Let us not forget that the climate in the north of Champagne is not exactly conducive to the growth of grapes and therefore bad vintages are more frequent than not. For this reason, the blending of vintages is essential to create a consistent product from one year to the next. France
on the other hand is actually the oddball and as the name states, these wines contain only the must from the specified year on the label and are produced only in top vintages. If you have grown accustom to a particular taste from your favourite Champagne Champagne house, their vintage bottling may seem a bit ‘different’ at first.
Delaying the run-off of the crushed grape juice (must) and separation from the Pinot Meunier and/or Pinot Noir skins will result in a slight red stained wine – we know this as Rosé Champagne.
In terms of cellaring potential, Champagne is ready to drink when you buy it. Though like many other high quality wines, a year or two spent in the bottle will allow the wine’s potential hard edges to soften. High-quality Champagne will evolve from lively, citrusy, and fresh toward a creamy richness after 5-10 years in the cellar becoming fully mature as it approaches 15-20 years of age. Any longer, and the bubbles begin to dissipate. Additionally, and since the CO2 within the bottle maintains an adequate degree of moisture, Champagne and sparkling wines need not lie on their sides. You can store your bubbly bottles upright while you wait for the wine to age.
When serving Champagne and contrary to common practice, the cork should be removed carefully and without a great froth of bubbles. Simply put: a great deal of effort went in to putting the bubbles into the wine, let’s not waste then on the ‘pop’. Unless of course, you have just won the Grand Prix – then ‘shake and spray’ everyone around you!
“Champagne is from Champagne. Bubbles from elsewhere, however good, cannot be called Champagne.”