A Champagne Primer

Apr 18

Champagne is the only drink that leaves a woman still beautiful after drinking it.

– Madame de Pompadour

BRUT, EXTRA DRY, SEC, DEMI SEC

Confusingly, Brut is drier than extra dry, which is considered semidry. Sec is middle of the road semisweet and demi-sec is sweet. Most champagne lovers enjoy an acidic, dry champagne as aperitifs, and sec or demi-sec with dessert!

POP, FIZZ, CLINK

Half the sexiness is drinking a glass of champagne, and the other half comes from opening it. First, make sure the bottle is well chilled. Remove the foil from around the top of the bottle and place your hand on top of the cork. Keep your hand here until the bottle is open. Undo the wire cage and remove it. Put a cloth napkin over the top of cork and begin removing the cork gently, turning the bottle in one direction and the cork in the other. While a loud pop is fun, aim to ease the cork out instead, so you don’t allow too much carbon dioxide to escape.

But…if you’d rather make a splash the next time you open your champagne, try this party trick. (Note: Hold the champagne flute at the base of the stem instead of the base of the bowl. The stem is much stronger and can withstand the vibrations better, and that way the bowl won’t go flying!)

MÉTHODE CHAMPENOISE

Champagne is made by a process called Méthode Champenoise, and these wines must come from the french region of Champagne. When a similar method is used by other producers outside of Champagne, it is called Méthode Tradicional.

After the grapes are harvested and pressed, the first fermentation occurs. Yeast is added to the grape juice and metabolizes the sugars, and the results are CO2 and alcohol. Then the winemaker selects a blend of still wines to add to the wine, along with additional sugar and yeast, to jumpstart the second fermentation. The wine is placed in its permanent bottle but with a temporary bottle cap. The second fermentation produces the beloved energy of the bubbly, which ultimately stays in the bottle! The wine is aged in the bottle, and riddling occurs, where the wines are placed on racks and regularly given a slight turn while also gradually tipping the bottles downward. After six to eight weeks, the bottles are face down and any remaining sediment are resting in the bottle’s neck. And finally, the top of the bottles are dipped in a brine solution to freeze them, so that the temporary cap and the sediment can be removed, and the bottle is recorked with real cork.

TO VEUVE OR NOT TO VEUVE

Veuve is considered the go-to for champagne enthusiasts and novices alike. Whether you see the Real Housewives waving it as host gifts or your boss gifting it to a client, it is a good wine. Perrier Jouet is great for splurging, and no one will turn down Moet & Chandon. But our favorite…and I can’t believe I’m sharing this with you…comes from a little house in New Mexico called Gruet. Made in the Méthode Tradicional, Gruet offers an incredible price point, a variety of styles and is consistently delightful.

 

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