Celebrate World Champagne Day in Style

Written by
Ben Knight
February 16, 2017
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There is a day for everything, Champagne included. As if we needed an excuse, here’s a little info that will help you select the perfect fizz for your palate.

There’s Christmas, Easter, Mother’s day, and Victorians even have a day for the AFL parade; but the wine lovers, we celebrate wine itself. On October the 23rd it’s all about bubbles as we celebrate World Champagne Day. The drink of kings and queens, the drink to celebrate and commiserate, the beverage with bubbles encompasses all emotions - yet we often know little about it. Champagne is the catch-cry for any wine that sparkles, but we need to start by getting to know our bubbles. So let’s unravel some of the mystique to help you drink sparkling and champagne like a boss.

Just what is Champagne?

To be called Champagne, the famous sparkling must come from the Champagne region in France, one of the coldest and most northerly wine-growing regions. It is made primarily with Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, and the method by which it is produced is called Champenoise. This involves two fermentations, ageing for a minimum of 15 months on lees in the bottle and disgorging.  It is considered the most elaborate and best way to make high quality wine with bubbles.  Test your palate on a Mumm NV*, which is light and zesty, and for something fuller and more toasty try Bollinger NV*.

*NV means non-vintage, and lets us know that the grapes used were from a number of different vintages. This is the key to consistency with sparkling wine, and the art of the winemaker is also about blending wine from different years to create a style that hardly changes from year to year

Other Global styles

You’ve probably heard of Prosecco. This made from the Prosecco grape and is produced in the Veneto in Italy. Usually this is concocted by simply adding bubbles to a base wine, a little like soda stream. It’s bright, fruity and relatively simple.  Prosecco starts at around $10 and you will be hard pressed to find one for more than $30, although Cartizze is the premium Prosecco region. If you find one, it will cost a little more.  If you want to add strawberries or other fruit to a glass of bubbles, Prosecco is a good place to start, as there is no point putting fruit into a great glass of wine. In Australia, Prosecco can be made anywhere as long as they use the Prosecco grape. Try Brown Brothers Prosecco or Revino Prosecco DOC.

Cava is the top sparkling wine of Spain, and although based around Barcelona, Cava can be made in a number of select areas across the country. The method of production is the same as Champagne, however the grapes they use are Macabeo, Xarel-Lo and Parellada. The Cava wines are rich and complex like the top-end Champagne, and have included a longer minimum ageing period than Champagne. Cava has a broad price spread. You can find lovely, fruity Cava for any budget. La Vuelta is a young bright and savoury Cava to start with.

Back home

In Australia, we have no one region that lays claim to making the best sparkling wine, and certainly not a region that gives its name to the style, so all bubbly wine is called sparkling wine. All sparkling wines are not equal, though. If the production style follows the method traditionelle of extended lees ageing in bottle, the wines are far more complex and long-lived. If they follow the production method of Prosecco, then they are more forward and fruity.  For something a little serious made in the traditional method, try Croser Vintage. For something more fruity and easy on the bank account, pick up some Seppelt Salinger NV.

Service temperature

For most Sparkling wine, given its heightened acidity and its effervescence, it is prudent to serve the wine colder than most white wines. Beyond 12 degrees and you are asking to be soaked when you open the bottle. Colder than 5 degrees takes away the flavour, so an even 8 degrees will keep you in a safe zone for best enjoyment.

Stemware

Champagne and Sparkling wine are perhaps the only kinds that demand a specific glass. This long, thin and elegant glass, however, is not the best glass for maximum enjoyment. The tallness keeps the bubbles fizzing for a long time, but there is more to Sparkling wine than bubbles. The wine itself should be interesting and complex, and the tall sided glass goes a long way to subdue aroma and flavour.  For best examples choose a tulip shaped glass, something with a broader middle and enough room to let the flavours get out and into your nose. Now go forth, drink bubbles and celebrate World Champagne Day in style and most importantly, know a little bit about what you’re drinking.