Q: I’ve been invited to a New Years party and need to bring some champagne. I know nothing about it and need info 101. Can you make some suggestions? ……………...John, P
A: Walking into the wine store to buy wine when you don’t know anything about it can be daunting. We all have our own preferences as to taste, so it can be difficult to choose wine for someone else’s tastes. So here is a little help in making your decisions.
Champagne, or sparking wine, is available from around the world and within a large price range. In Spain it is cava and in Italy Proseco—but the real stuff that can actually be called champagne generally costs between $25 and several hundred dollars. In order to be ‘real’ champagne it must come from a specific region of France, it is generally available in limited quantities, and is processed in a very labor intensive way. Champagne is aged as well, and some of the cost comes from storing it, a few years for some and up to seven years for others.
Champagne is generally made from either Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunnier, or often a blend of the three. Blanc de blanc champagne is made from Chardonnay, characterized by a lighter creamier style. Blanc de noir is made from the pinot, producing a more robust, toasty style.
The method champenoise, or making champagne, is a delicate process, fermenting, blending, resting, turning, degorgement, recorking, traditionally done by hand, but now done mostly by machine. This natural process of creating the bubbles makes it the quality product it is. Cheaper varieties of sparkling wine use an injection of carbon dioxide, just like soda does.
Vintage means the wine was made from the same kind of grapes all from the same harvest. Non vintage means that blends from different years may be combined to create a consistent taste and style. Special blends, cuvees, are always more expensive than regular non-vintage bottles. Rosees have gained favor since the turn of the century and some Rose can be over $100, but decent wines can be found between $40 and $80. A Rose is rich, with fruity flavors reminiscent of strawberry and cherry.
Brut means bone dry to almost dry (less than 1.5 % sugar). Most common type of Champagne, and a safe bet when shopping for a gift or party. Extra-Dry or Extra sec actually means “slightly sweeter” or about 2% sugar. Sec means mid sweet, demi-sec is considered a sweet dessert wine. Doux is 5% sweet and also considered a dessert wine.
One of my adult sons commented to me the other day, “Mom, you spoiled us. You taught us to appreciate the good stuff and now we can’t afford it ourselves.” But given the opportunity, at least they know what to get a hostess for a party.
Have a wonderful and safe holiday season.
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- Friday, 23 December 2011
- Posted in Categories: : Ask Madalyn