Sparkling wine and Champagne are one of life’s simple pleasures. Each moment of each day presents another occasion to relax and open a bottle of bubbly: holiday shopping on the Internet, a formal dinner or gorging on gingerbread men on the couch. Then there’s this little holiday called New Year’s Eve. The following Q&A will help you find the perfect sparkler to satisfy your whenever/wherever needs.
Is there a difference between Champagne and sparkling wine?
Not really. Officially, only wine produced in Champagne, France, can employ the name “Champagne.” To produce the quality of Champagne, foreign sparkling wine producers use France’s Methode Champenoise (translation: “made in the method of Champagne”), a complex process that generates natural bubbles inside the bottle, as opposed to in a tank (curious about how it’s made? Click here). The French protect their reputation by limiting other countries’ use of the venerated name, even when they use the same production process. Thus, Americans call their sparklers “Chardonnay Champagne,” “sparkling wine” or “California Champagne.”
What does “Brut” mean?
“Brut” means very dry, crisp sparkling wine or Champagne. There are four varying sweetness labels for most bubblies sold in the U.S.: Brut — the driest you can buy; extra dry — slightly sweeter (made specifically for the American market since we are sugar whores); sec — rarely seen; and demi-sec — the sweetest, demi-secs are dessert wines and pretty pricey. Those who prefer a sweeter wine should start with an extra dry like Piper-Heidsieck Non-Vintage Extra Dry Champagne or an Italian Prosecco.
What food goes best with sparkling wine?
Sparkling wine excels in the “goes with everything” category. From steak, bloomy rind cheeses like brie and camembert, seafood and roast turkey to fruitcake, doughnuts and cookies, sparkling wine fits every occasion.
What’s the best way to chill sparkling wine?
Place the bottle in a bucket filled with half-water, half-ice and a handful of salt. It only takes about 20 minutes.
What is blanc de blancs?
Blanc de blancs wine is produced using 100 percent white grapes, normally Chardonnay. Blanc de noirs is a white wine made exclusively with red grapes, normally Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Sometimes, it has a tint of pink to it.
What’s the deal with vintage and non-vintage Champagne?
A very common practice in sparkling wines, nonvintage (NV) indicates a blend of juice from two or more years. Winemakers sometimes “declare a vintage” when they feel the wine is exceptional. But beware: Though it frequently adds mucho dollars to the cost, vintage does not always mean quality.
Want more? Read Champagne Taste, Beer Budget which includes recommendations.