Whether to toast a special moment in one’s life or share a fun moment with friends, bring on the bubbles (with moderation of course)! Sparkling wines come from many origins, and many different compositions, but each is a unique product, with its tradition, know-how, and spirit.
The production of sparkling wine starts just like any other good wine. The grapes are harvested and placed into a vat. The first fermentation begins, converting the natural sugar in the grapes into alcohol while the resultant carbon dioxide is allowed to escape. This produces the base wine. The production of sparkling wines rely on a basic principle – “capturing the sparkle” during a second phase of fermentation. Two methods exist and differentiate according to the type of container in which the wine is stored when the “sparkle” is captured. It can be a vat which is hermetically-closed to retain the carbon dioxide, referred to as the “Charmat” method. The sparkling wine is bottled under pressure. In the traditional method, the sparkle is captured in a robust glass bottle, in which case we refer to a bottle-fermented product. All production methods for sparkling wines have one thing in common: they have the purpose of introducing enough carbon dioxide into the wine to make it effervescent.
Cheers to Champagne
Cheers to Champagne the most famous of bubblies. This is where the producers of sparkling wine are said to have invented the traditional method and have the special right to call their production the method champenoise. Legend has it that in the early 1700s a monk, Dom Pérignon, carried out tests on white wines to control the natural effervescence which regularly occurred in the springtime when the wine fermentations restarted after the winter cold. The cellars could get into a big mess when the bottles exploded. So some level of control was needed. Legend has it that he is the inventor of the Champagne or traditional method, in which the controlled in bottle re-fermentation made the sparkle. He also instigated the creation of a heavier bottle and mushroom-shaped cork capable of holding in all that power.
It’s not just the method and form that makes Champagne so popular. It’s the choice of grapes, the land they grow on, their climate, that make champagne so worthy of a special occasion. Viniculture in Champagne must meet a lengthy list of requirements that start from pruning to the degree of pressing, to the time before bottling, to the number of bottles put into the market.
More sparkling Gems!
There are many more sparkling French gems: Vouvray (Loire), Blanquette de Limoux (Languedoc), Crement d’Alsace (Alsace): These are just of few of over 23 certified sparkling wines in France. And by chance Discover France offers trips in these wine regions! The geolocation of the vineyards, the climate, and the choice of grapes create some delicious bubbles.
Here are a few terms to help your “research”. The French term “Mousseux” refers to a sparkling wine made using methods other than the traditional method while “Crémant” can only be used for wines that have been made using the traditional method. No more excuses to get acquainted with these sparkling treasures. Bring on the bubbles!