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Pop the Cork

Posted on May 01, 2015 in Wine , May-June 2015 , Champagne

Champagne, Prosecco and sparkling wine defined By Karen Granger

There are so many events to celebrate in the coming months — Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, college graduations and weddings. Nothing elevates an occasion more than popping open some sparkling wine or Champagne. There is such a wide range of prices and styles, the following will give you a brief tutorial on how Champagne and sparkling wine are made and why there is such a discrepancy.

The Basics of Champagne:

First and foremost, Champagne is a region in France, and any sparkling wine from a different region or country is just that — sparkling wine. Champagne is made in the méthode champenoise (also called the traditional method) from just three grapes — pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay. The traditional method begins with making still wine: sugar + yeast = alcohol + carbon dioxide.

When making still wines, the byproduct CO₂ is released. Then the wine is bottled and a secondary fermentation takes place within the bottle by adding more sugar and yeast then trapping the CO₂, creating the bubbles. Next, the spent yeast needs to be removed. This is done by a process called riddling, and in many Champagne houses it is still done by hand, and takes up to 10 weeks. Basically the bottle is wiggled and turned daily until the sediment ends up in the neck of the upside-down bottle. It is then frozen and removed and the bottle topped off. This process is very involved and results in finer fully integrated bubbles. Champagne is truly handcrafted, and the price tag is a reflection of that workmanship.

There are other methods to getting the bubbles in wine. Charmat, or the tank method, does both fermentations in a large pressurized tank, then filters off the dead yeast and bottles the sparkling wine. The most recognizable wine utilizing charmat is Prosecco, made from the glera grape. The final and least desirable method is carbonating the wine just like a soda is carbonated; this process results in large bubbles that are not integrated into the wine. Both of these methods are considerably less expensive than the méthode champenoise, which is why you can find a bottle of Prosecco for $10 and a bottle of Champagne in the hundreds.

Why choose bubbly?

Whether you choose Champagne or another sparkler, one of the greatest assets to sparkling wine is its ability to pair with anything from fried food to sushi. The bubbles act as a palate cleanser, making each bite fresh and new. It also makes any event feel more celebratory and special. So the next time you are celebrating, why not make it truly exceptional and pop open the bubbles? Cheers!

Pick up a variety of Champagne, Prosecco and other sparkling wines at Bud & Alley’s, Great Southern Cafe, 45 Central, The Shrimp Shack, Modica Market and others.