What better way to look back on the trials and triumphs on 2014, and look forward to the new adventures that await in 2015, than with a bottle of bubbly? Sparkling wine is practically synonymous with celebrations, and especially with New Year’s Eve celebrations! It is available in a variety of flavors and price points, so there is an ideal bottle of bubbles for most everyone.
While there is only one true Champagne, that which originates from the Champagne region of France, wines made in the champagne method, will be labeled as a variety of things, including Prosecco, Cremant, Cava, Methode Champenoise, and Sparkling Wine. Any of these incarnations of Champagne makes for perfect celebratory bubbles, which is how we shall refer to it from here on out: bubbles.
The champagne method of production can be done with virtually any variety of wine grape. It is made primarily with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier in Champagne, France,and is typically a non-vintage wine. Should you have a bottle of vintage bubbles, that means the wine makers thought that year’s harvest to be especially good, and did not blend previous vintages into that bottle. It will likely be a pricier bottle of bubbles, and promises to be of stellar flavor and bubble structure.
No matter which bottle of bubbles awaits a cork-popping from you, be sure to take care when releasing the liquid from the bottle, starting with a different, though not difficult, method of uncorking. Traditionally, a cork cage will twist about six and a half times before it releases itself from the bottle. Once that wire cage is off, be sure to keep the cork covered, with your thumb of palm of your hand. It is under great pressure, about six atmospheres of pressure, and can be rather damaging if left to pop out on it’s own. Now hole the cork with one hand, and with the other hand, twist the bottle slowly. Although the traditional sound of a cork popping loudly out of the bottle is associated with bubbly, it should actually come out with a soft hisssssssss.
Now pour…slowly! All those bubbles will erupt right over the rim of your glass if you pour too fast. As with beer, if you tilt the glass and pour it down the side of the glass, it will foam slower. The ‘proper’ way to pour bubbles, however, is to pour a little into each glass and then go back to top it off. Check out the lovely little rows of bubbles streaming up the glass…are they tiny and structured? That is the sign of a fine quality bubbly. Some budget bubbles may have a little extra dosage of sugar or carbon dioxide creating a larger faster bubble. If the bubbly is a young bottle, that may also have a larger bubble formation.
As for sweetness (or dryness) of the bubbly, it helps to know that in Sparkling Wine terms, brut is dry, extra brut is very dry, and extra dry is the sweetest of the three! If it’s labeled sec or demi sec expect it to be on the sweet side. These days, you will often find bubbles infused with flavors, usually raspberry or citrus, but also almond, pomegranate, and peach. Here, it’s really just a matter of preference. There are bubble snobs who will only drink it if it’s true Champagne, bubble purists who only drink the unflavored style, and bubble adventurists who enjoy every style!
Know your crowd when purchasing bubbles for that special occasion, and picking the right bubbles will be easy. Here are a few suggestions:
- For the snob: Dom Perignon, Piper Heidsieck, Perrier-Jouet, and Veuve Clicquot
- For the purist: Pol Roger, Weibel Stanford Brut, Gloria Ferrer Blancs de Blanc, Chandon Rose, and Barefoot Brut
- For the adventurist: just about anything! Weibel Family Vineyards does several fun and flavorful infused sparklers. Barefoot Bubbly has a multitude of choices, as well, including a Moscato Bubbly for those that like it a bit sweet, and a Pinot Grigio Bubbly.
Finding the right bottle of bubbly doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Know that true French Champagne is likely to be on the pricier side, but there are still many bottles to be found for under $50.00. Expect to spend between $12.00 and $40.00 per bottle to find a crowd pleasing bottle, and bring in 2015 with the joy that every bottle of bubbles promises!