The A to Z of Bubbly creation
Champagne is the dream beverage of celebrations, or commiserations, or any occasion really. Actually, come to think of it, it’s also a drink for many other occasions, if you believe famous quotes by Lily Bollinger, Winston Churchill and Napoleon! (you’ll find the quotes at the bottom!)
But whether you choose your bubbly carefully or choose one in a rush, if you’re anything like me, you’ll spend a lot of time admiring the beauty in your glass. I sometimes get to a point where I think ‘how did it all get there?’. Well I decided to answer my own question, and to figure out what makes the top French houses so sought-after.
Champagnes (or sparkling wines, since the Champagne name is really limited to that area of France!) are really the invention of Dom Perignon, who supposedly accidentally discovered the technique for making champagne whilst doing some problem-solving with wines. Now that I think of it, there’s a famous quote by him – something about stars – it’s at the bottom of the page!). Champagne is made basically via the following method:
1. The maker takes a base wine that’s high in acidity (to keep the acidic edge in the final drink).
2. Sugar and yeast are added to sweeten the wine and encourage fermentation and flavor development.
3. Then most champagne houses and sparkling makers will ferment the wine again in bottles, to develop the flavor further.
4. ‘Riddling’ is done, where bottles are rotated upside down to develop flavor (a funny kind of name for a serious step!)
5. Disgorgement! (another funny name, I know). But the gist of this is to remove the frozen ‘lees’ or fermented yeast from the neck of the wine.
6. Some makers will now put the wine directly into the bottle for aging, and some will store the disgorged wine in a pressurized tank to develop flavor in a different way.
7. Essentially then there’s some bottle aging in cellars (less expensive or differently-made champagnes made skip this!).
8. It then has a cork popped in it and it’s on its way to you.
This process may vary slightly, and some aging may not take place in less expensive champagnes/sparkling wines. Recently there’s been a few ‘late disgorged’ wines on the market, basically meaning they spent longer developing flavor in the bottle and so may have more complexity – but it requires patience, which should then pay off with a superb wine! A highly recommended ‘Late Disgorged’ Sparkling is Tasmania’s own 2000 Arras Late Disgorged EJ Carr, rated a game-changing 97 points (click here to find out more about wine scoring!) by James Halliday, Australia’s wine expert.
Another exceptional choice would be the Jansz Tasmania Premium Late Disgorged Vintage Cuvee 2001, rated 94 points by Australia’s legendary James Halliday.
Now that you know the bits and pieces involved in wine making, you can possibly refer to the ‘Reading Wine Labels’ blog or go out and experiment for yourself. Talk to you local wine store expert and don’t be afraid to try it and talk about it!
Quotes (as promised!)
Lily Bollinger - “I drink it when I am happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.” – 17th October 1961, Daily Mail.
Winston Churchill - "remember gentlemen, it's not just France we are fighting for, it's Champagne!"
Napoleon Bonaparte - "in victory, you deserve Champagne, in defeat, you need it"
Dom Perignon - "come quickly, I am tasting the stars!"
Winefolly - http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/originals/a3/f6/10/a3f610127e70ce402f3b5c49bd10b4bf.jpg
James Halliday/Wine Negociants http://www.negociants.com/library/James%20Halliday%20Australian%20Wine%20Companion%20HSFV%20POS.pdf
Lily Bollinger quote, http://www.matthewjukes.com/2011/11/madame-lily-bollinger-the-full-piece-which-was-edited-for-weekend-magazines-travel-piece/
Winston Churchill quotes, http://www.sunzu.com/articles/15-great-quotes-about-champagne-71006/
Napoleon Bonaparte quote, http://www.sunzu.com/articles/15-great-quotes-about-champagne-71006/
Dom Perignon quote, http://www.sunzu.com/articles/15-great-quotes-about-champagne-71006/