Wine Time – Sparkling Wine

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Sparkling wine … the drink for Valentine’s Day.
I’ve developed a renewed interest in Sparkling Wines and am drinking it as a complement to food in the same way  as you match wine with food. 

Many people tend to only drink sparkling wine on special occasions, which is a shame, as it is a fabulous complimentary drink to have with meals.

Sparkling wine, Champagne and Spumante are essentially all the same – it just depends on its origins. Sparkling wine can only be called Champagne when it originates from the Champagne region of France, so the majority of foreign producers use the term Sparkling Wine.  Other regions within France use the term Cremant and Italians use the term Spumante rather than Sparkling Wine.

In the same way as wines differ, so do sparkling wines, ranging from light and dry to sweet and fruity while others can be heavy and yeasty. A special treat for me at this time of year is drinking sparkling with oysters … A wonderful appetiser.  Chicken is a classic combination with champagne as an accompaniment, or adding it to a sauce is simply delicious. Like any wine, the enjoyment is in experimenting with the various flavour combinations.

Another fascination with Champagne is its history. Dom Perignon was a Benedictine monk that is given credit for turning what was considered to be unappealing discoloured  bubbly wine into something similar to “drinking the stars”. He mastered blending red and white grapes together, pressing them gently to prevent any discolouration from the skins and he also mastered the retention of carbon dioxide in the bottle. Both were major milestones in the development of what we take for granted today in our Champagne. The story of Veuve Clicquot is also worth a read. The trials of producing and distributing this “liquid gold” back in the late 1700s and early 1800s really required entrepreneurs with nerves of steel. Using hand blown glass bottles, with all their irregularities to be stacked and shipped from France across the English Channel to the UK and even further afield to Russia for royalty and the wealthy was a minefield of challenges. Many times entire shipments were lost due to breakage – every shipment was potential disaster.

So what makes Bubbly bubbly? A base wine is produced using fruit that is typically harvested early to ensure good acidity, lower sugar levels/lower alcohol. Once the maker is happy with his base wine blend, a second fermentation process is generated and dependent upon the method being applied, the resultant wine is either bottled under pressure or stored in specialised tanks under pressure. The bubbles occur as a result of the carbon dioxide releasing into the wine. The pressure created by the bubbles is the reason sparkling wine is bottled with a style of bottle strong enough to cope with the pressure, plus the addition of a heavy duty cork kept secure by a wire cage.

So now you’ve got a better appreciation of Champagne’s history, get that bottle of Champagne that has been sitting in that special place for too long and put it in the fridge and bloody well drink it … What are you waiting for? You can go and buy another one tomorrow!

UPCOMING Music in the Paddock – Taree PCYC Fundraiser 14th February.

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