Break out the bubbles!
Bubbles have certainly added sparkle to the world of wine. There was once a time when bubbles were cursed by winemakers and believed to be a fault. In fact, it is said that Dom Perignon, widely considered the grandfather of Champagne, was actually employed to eradicate them. Cellar records during his reign as cellar master (1668 to 1715) reveal a complete absence of bubbly sales, suggesting that Champagne, now used to mark special occasions worldwide, was initially no cause for celebration. Dom Perignon’s failure to destroy the bubbles produced during wine production, gave rise to the world’s most popular celebratory beverage. I simply cannot imagine a world with only still wines.
During the ensuing centuries, sparkling wines have, through association with the successful and momentous occasions in life, rightfully secured sustained popularity. Like candles on a birthday cake, bubbles add fun and credence to life’s special celebrations.
While Champagne has long been at the top of the party guest list, other sparkling varieties are still proving their worth. You may have been disappointed by mass produced, overly sweet bubbles, but Cava, Cremant de Loire, Prosecco and Cremant de Bourgogne are four trending sparklings that deserve an invitation to attend your next toast. These sparkling beauties are well worth a try, and at a fraction of the cost they might even provide an excuse to celebrate more often; first car, first house, first day of the week…
Then again, at this time of year, we probably don’t need to look for excuses to celebrate. The festive season is almost upon us and now is the time to stock up on sparklings. The question is, which one?
You certainly can’t go wrong with Champagne. Named after the North-Eastern region of France from whence it came, Champagne is derived from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes. It goes through a second fermentation in the bottle, giving it depth, body and bubbles!
In addition to Champagne, France is home to several other delicious sparkling wines. Cremant de Loire and Cremant de Bourgogne are my definite favourites. Cremant de Loire, as the name implies is delightfully creamy. Its fresh, dry, fruity flavours make it a perfect summer aperitif.
Cava, Spain’s gift to sparkling wine lovers, is produced in the same way as champagne; developing its complexity through a second, in bottle fermentation. Unlike Champagne, however, Cava uses Macabeo, Xarello and Parellada grapes. Lighter and fruitier than Champagne, it is comparable, and a whole lot more affordable.
While the reputation of Italy’s Prosecco has suffered at times through association with inferior brands, there are many worthwhile bottles. If in doubt, look for the DOC and DOCG classification. Wines bearing this mark are produced under strict regulations that ensure purity and superior quality. Prosecco is fresh and fruity with light bubbles. A secondary fermentation in steel tanks, rather than in bottle, makes Prosecco cheaper to produce – a saving that is then passed on to the consumer.
Beyond the science there is something magical about sparkling wines. A feast for the eyes and palate, they have a gift for bringing people together. Next time you find yourself in a room of people, glasses raised in unison to toast an important moment in time, observe the feeling in the room. That, dear friends, is the magic of bubbles!