Attention, entertaining gurus: Do you wish you were more well versed in the world of sparkling wine? You’re in luck—our friends over at Darling Magazine are breaking everything down in an informal “Champagne 101” article. Enjoy a ‘taste’ of the feature below, then head to Darling Magazine for the rest of the details!
You don’t need to be a food or wine expert to love Champagne. It’s a drink that, once you know a bit about it, easily integrates into your hosting routine and can make any occasion feel extra special. Don’t be intimidated by the sometimes crazy price points, confusing labels or high-end facade. Champagne doesn’t have to be an inaccessible, mysterious luxury.
Let’s break it down:
Champagne is sparkling (carbonated) wine produced from grapes grown in the Champagne region of northern France. The process that turns basic wine into Champagne is called second fermentation. With non-carbonated wine, sugar is fermented into alcohol and carbon dioxide by yeast, and the wine is then bottled. The second fermentation takes place inside the sealed bottle—the sugar continues fermenting, but this time the carbon dioxide cannot escape the hermetic seal, producing bubbles. Et Voila! Champagne. It is typically aged at least three years before it’s considered ready for consumption.
Types of Champagne
Champagne is made from three types of grapes: chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. The kind of grape or blend used determines the Champagne type. The “vintage” means the year of production. Most Champagnes are a blend of vintages, while some bottles are only from a single year.
Blanc de Blancs
Translated as “white from whites,” this Champagne is made from only chardonnay grapes. It is typically crisp, fresh, light and acidic. Perfect as an apéritif or with food such as sushi, caviar or other fish. Try: Diebolt-Vallois Fleur de Passion Blanc de Blancs, Bonnaire Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs
Blanc de Noirs
Translated as “white from blacks,” this Champagne is made from either pinot noir or pinot meunier grapes. The color is golden and the taste is quite structured, with a medium to full body. This is a wine you can drink with a meal—spicy food, fish or even duck. This tends to be a rare blend, so the bottles can be expensive. Try: Gosset-Brabant Noirs d’Ay Grand Cru, Lelarge-Pugeot Les Meuniers de Clemence
A Cuvée is any blend of the three grape varietals made from the first gentle pressing of the gapes. It is considered the best juice. Try: Roger Brun Cuvée des Sires Extra Brut 2010, Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut
There are two ways to make rosé. The most common, called rosé d’assemblage, is to mix a small amount of red wine (also produced in Champagne, of course) with white wine before its second fermentation. The second method, called rosé de saignée, is when the grapes remain in contact with the grape skins for a few hours, thus becoming pigmented. Rosé de saignée is generally more vinous, allowing it to pair well with food. The pink color of rosé can vary greatly, but this is not indicative of its quality. Try: J.M. Tissier Cuvée Aphrodite Rosé de Saignée, Bonnaire Brut Rosé
Hop on over to Darling Magazine to find out more about this toast-worthy drink! By the time you finish reading, you’ll likely have a newfound respect for all things bubbly.