Bubbly Primer

Sparkling wine is now made all over the world to generally very high standards. I would encourage you to sample them all. (Unless you’re absurdly wealthy. Then by all means limit yourself to champagne and sneer at the rest of us plebes.)

For those of you who are relatively new to bubbly, and champagne, here’s a quick rundown of the basic types of bubbles.

Champagne: wines grown in the province of champagne on chalk, which adds a mineral edge. Usually made from a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. Costs about 50 to 100% too much. And don’t put too much stock in their mystique. A couple of years ago the French decided that the borders needed to be moved, which is to say increase the amount of grapes grown that could be called champagne…

Frizzante (It.) or Pettilant (Fr.): Effervescent but nowhere near as much as real sparkling wines. Try a bottle of Vinho Verde from Portugal to get the idea.

Mousse/bead: the technical term to describe the bubbles. Mousse is the texture in the mouth, bead is generally a visual assessment of the bubbles.

Blanc de Blanc: champagne made only from chardonnay grapes.

Blanc de noir: bubbly made only from red grapes (pinot noir and pinot meunier.)

Cava: Spanish sparkling wine, typically made from parelledo, Xarello and macabeo grapes (and others in smaller amounts) it is a fabulous wine, and comparatively a great deal, altho’ the flavour profile is slightly different.

Spumante: Italian term for sparkling wine. Often off dry.

Prosecco: a region in the veneto that produces some very nice bubbly from off dry to bone dry. Trendy these days and moving up in price.

Cremant: French sparkling wines from outside Champagne. Often spectacular deals. Alsace in particular is very good.

Brut: French term for the driest bubbly.

Sec: French term for off dry bubbly. (Often much nicer than people think)

Methode Champenoise: After the initial fermentation the bottles are opened, and yeast and sugar is added for a secondary fermentation. Eventually they are disgorged (see below) and corked and sold.

Disgorged / degoregement: the bottles are opened after the secondary fermentation, the lees ejaculated, the bottles topped up corked, labled and sold.

Charment: a method of injecting CO2 into the wine while in a large stainless vat. Mostly sniffed at by connoisseurs, there’s no reason why charmant wines should not be first rate, as good as NV champagnes.

NV / non-vintage: 95% of all Champagne sold is non-vintage, which refers to the fact that the dosage, the fluid used to top up the wine, can come from any and usually is a blend of many years. While I have some sympathy for the best vintage champagnes, and I certainly like NV the price of the stuff is frankly reached the point of consumer gouging. If you’re rich, enjoy it, otherwise shop in different countries.

There’s a great deal more I can add and probably will as I spot holes. But this should get you going.

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