Bubbles All Over The World

Sparkling wine, Prosecco, Cava, Champagne and now the English come and invent their „Britagne“ (pronounced “Brit-an-ye“ off course and not like the ending in Champagne). It makes it all even more confusing. So let’s see what actually the difference is between all these sparkling wines and why is Champagne more expensive than the rest.

As a sparkling lover I’m going to explain all differences between the various bubblies. All Champagnes and Sparkling wines come as Extra Brut, Brut (most popular style) Extra Dry, Sec and Demi-Sec depending on their sugar levels. Brut describes a dry natural wine that no sweetness was added to.

Most importantly: anything that is not produced within the French region of Champagne needs to be given another name. In the European Union it is even illegal to call any sparkling “Champagne” when it is not made in this particular region.

But why is Champagne more expensive than other bubblies? The territory of making the wine and the circumstances around the wine making, such as production method or weather are factors that need to be considered.

The method used to produce Champagne is called “the methodé champenoise” and involves a lot of costs, time and labour. Regular wine is put into a bottle and fermented again which produces all these bubbles. After an aging process of at least 15 months the by-products of fermentation (dead yeast cells) must be carefully extracted from the bottle. The pressure inside this bottle is equivalent to that in a car tire. The long storage period and the compound of blends from different years (some may be 8-10 years) also cause additional costs.

The second point is that the Champagne region has relatively cool temperatures that make growing and ripening of wine grapes more difficult. Spring frosts and lack of sunshine mean that some grapes never ripen. So you do not only pay for the grapes that made it into the bottle but also for the ones that didn’t. The process of winemaking itself is expensive and you pay the price. Another problem with this area is it needs to provide countries around the world with its Champagne and although every acre is planted with vines the rarity raises the price.

Italy’s flagship in regards to bubbly is Prosecco made of Italian’s grapes (the Italian wine, region and grape is called Prosecco). It is a fun fruity bubbly, lighter and slightly sweeter than Champagne and the procedure of producing Prosecco differs from the “the methodé champenoise.” Instead the “Charmat” method is used. The wine goes through the second fermentation in pressurised tanks and not in individualised bottles. This tank fermentation preserves the freshness of Prosecco and flavour of the grapes. This procedure is not as complex as for Champagne which allows the lower price.

Since it is a light-bodied, off-dry fizz with slight aromas of peach it is great for making cocktails. Mixed with peach juice Prosecco becomes a Bellini or combined with Aperol and a splash of seltzer it makes a great Aperol Spritz both very popular refreshing drinks in Italy. Two Italian terms describe the type of Prosecco; Spumante is used for fully sparkling wines and Frizzante for lightly sparkling.The name Prosecco can only be applied to sparkling wines that are made of grapes grown in the north-east of Italy. All Prosecco-producing regions are awarded the DOC designation – “Denominazione di origine controllata”, the Italian equivalent of France’s “Appellation d’origine contrôlée” and the first 15 designated regions were elevated to the highest status DOCG.

Winemakers in countries like Austria, Germany, Australia and Brazil that grow Prosecco grape are no longer allowed to call their sparkling wines Prosecco. Instead they will have to use the word “glera” – an alternative name for this grape. Other Italian sparklers are Franciacorta from Lombardy, Asti from Piedmont and Lambrusco from Emilia.

The Spanish Cava resembles Champagne more than the Italian Prosecco. Cava is Spain’s signature sparkling wine mostly made of grapes from the Catalonia hills. Cava is exclusively made of Spanish grapes while the production method used is the same as for Champagne. Cava is softer than Champagne and has aromas of honey, green apple and dried herbs. A good quality Cava will start at a price of €11 which seems a very interesting budget option.

New world countries will surprise you with good sparkling wines as well. Try Australia’s Jacob’s Creek or Wolf Blass which are the ones that rival Champagne the most or go with Cloudy Bay from New Zealand.

Argentina and Chile offer very drinkable sparkling wines for an affordable price. Still relatively new on the world wine market Brazil seems to be on a catch up race and surprises with refreshing and very tasty sparklings such as Aurora Sparkling or Miolo’s Millesime Brut.

Have a look at our range of Champagnes, Proseccos, Cavas and other sparkling wines at www.WinesMadeEasy.ie

The myths about wine

Every now and then some myths about the quality, price, tasting, and smelling of wine come across – some “traditions” in which even I used to believe at the beginning of my wine exploration.

So let’s see which stereotypes about wine are still in some wine drinkers mind.

1. A spoon or fork keeps the fizz in sparkling wine or Champagne

You’ve probably heard of it and, like me in my early wine exploring stages, even tried to put a fork or spoon upside down in an open bottle of sparkling wine to keep it fresh and fizzy. Some also might think is has to be the good sterling cutlery of your grandparents… But the truth is no matter what kind of cutlery you put in or if you just leave the bottle open and put it back into the fridge – it won’t make any difference. In reality there is no fundamental reason why a spoon or whatever object of steal or silver should stop the CO2 gas escape the bottle. But what does actually happen inside the bottle? The bubbles in sparkling wine are Carbon Dioxide, a heavy and inert gas, heavier than oxygen and nitrogen. It only takes minutes after popping the cork that CO2 forms a protective area just above the fluid level which forestalls oxidation and hold much of the remaining carbonation in liquid form – that keeps the fizz. This happens with or without the spoon!

2. Price dictates quality

Probably the biggest misnomer about wine. But you don’t have to pay a fortune to get a wine with good quality. Price doesn’t reflect quality. The price tells different things about the wine e.g. how many cases were made or how much was spent on marketing by the producer – both indicators that don’t say much about quality but have an effect on the bottle price. Prices of wine can differ due to the types of grapes used, the land of the vineyard, or price of packaging. In the end it is all about what you like. You can get a cheap wine and enjoy it while you probably wish you wouldn’t have spent that much on the expensive one…

3. Rosé is just white wine and red wine mixed together

Probably you have tried it at a party: Mix red and white wine and what do you get? Rosé? No. Typically quality rosé wine is made of red grapes. During the fermentation process the WHITE juice from the red grapes are in contact with the grapes skin and all red pigments are contained. This process can take from a few hours to a couple of days until the juice becomes its typical delightful pink colour and is then further fermented into wine.

4. Smell the cork and you know if it’s a good quality wine

Smelling the cork won’t tell you anything about the quality of wine – because cork smells…like cork! To check if the wine is corked you need to smell the wine itself, the cork won’t tell you. So, what should you do when the waiter hands you the cork of the bottle of wine you want to enjoy? Check if the cork is broken, or has any mould. Older and more expensive wine corks should have the vintage date on it which should be identical with the date on the label. Additionally the winery’s name, logo or other branding information should appear on the cork of a quality wine. Since natural corks are more and more replaced by synthetic corks or screw caps smelling the cork will probably not be seen that much anyway…

5. Screw tops are a sign of cheap wine

This leads us to the next myth: Wines with alternative closures, especially screw caps are cheap wine. False! The problem with natural cork is it makes the wine faulty. The chemical known as Cork Taint (Actually it is called Trichloroanisole) and can, if it appears in the cork, completely destroy the wine. The wine then smells and tastes dusty; like wet newspaper. If the bottle had a screw cap this wouldn’t have happened.

A big advantage of the screw cap is the ease of use. Doesn’t it go much faster? No corkscrew needed and when you don’t finish the whole bottle you can close it easily. And the wine itself has the same quality as a wine with a natural cork.

Have you heard any more interesting, funny myths about wine? Let me know!

Royal Family Despises Best of English Sparklings

Long speculations and rumours went around the world about which good drop the royal family might pick for the big upcoming event; the marriage of Kate and William.

Some said no English wine will be served; instead a French one will make the race.

But of course at a real British royal wedding the national pride requires an original English sparkling to toast the happy couple.

Last year Nyetimber’s classic cuvee 2003 from a UK manufacturer won the best sparkling wine on the planet award. The Decanter award was given to Ridgeview for its best sparkling wine; also an English example. During the Bolcini Del Monto international Wine Awards in Verona the Camel Valley won best Rosé Sparkling wine in the world (including Champagne) which has its vineyard in Cornwall, England.

And now guess which sparkling will be on the well laid tables? The surprising fact that England is producing the best sparkling wine in the world would make us assume the royal family will definitely pick one of those. But none of the announced made it on the wedding table. The royal couple have ditched the best in the world to be served with Pol Roger now. Pol Roger will be the official Champagne on next week’s royal wedding. The online wine magazine Decanter.com was told by a spokesman for Pol Roger a non-vintage has specifically been requested by the Palace. It will be sipped before the sit-down meal hosted by Prince Charles.

Although traditionally Pol Roger has never been drunk at royal weddings it was Sir Winston Churchill’s favourite Champagne and in 1984 Pol Roger created the Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill in his honour. Maybe because of its long and honourable association with the British aristocracy they decided in favour of Pol Roger.

For previous weddings Bollinger seemed to be popular. Queen Victoria as well as Prince Charles chose it for their marriages.

Although it’s not the best sparkling of England Pol Roger champaign must have something that impressed the couple. Having said this there is nothing left to say than Cheers!

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