Updated: Feb 1, 2019
Last week was National Champagne Week which got me thinking...the world of fizz can be a jumble of confusing terms and a seemingly endless selection. So what exactly is sparkling wine and how does it get those bubbles? Why are there so many names? Why can’t we just call it all Champagne? I did some research, so hopefully this will help you to make sense of this fermenting muddle and make you sound clever the next time you talk about champagne! Read on...
Firstly, at what temperature should we serve champers?
Pour it between 6-8 degrees C so it's a bit warmer than your fridge (not ice cold like its coming out of your freezer at 2-4 degrees C) and within minutes, in a warm glass, it goes up to 8-10 degrees C. This is an ideal temperature for high quality non-vintage champagne. For vintage, older champagne, serve it at 10-12 degrees C.
Champagne is best consumed cold, but not too cold.
Champagne's flavour changes as it ages...
There are three different types of flavour to talk about.
The primary flavour typically in champagne is fruit and there are two main types in white champagne: citrus fruit flavours are very common in young champagnes and the 'access brands'. Typically you will detect lemon flavours, grapefruit flavours, and sometimes mandarin. For high quality champagne you might taste flavours like peach, apricot, or prune.
You'll also find secondary flavours including fruit jam, cooked fruits and tarte tatin - an apple tart cooked with caramel. Sometimes you'll get buttery flavours and bread, or even breadcrumbs and brioche.
Then there's Tertiary flavours. These are found in more evolved champagnes and can include cocoa, coffee and mushrooms. Sometimes you can even get a leathery flavour in an older champagne. Walnuts and pecan nuts are also very typical tertiary flavours. In champagnes released after a minimum of three years of ageing, the blend is normally six or seven years old. So you'll never find only citrus and stone fruit flavours.
HOW IT’S MADE...
The different types of bubbly are fermented differently and here's a little insight in to how...
Traditional method: Secondary fermentation (which gives the bubbles) happens in bottle. Champagne, Franciacorta and Cava use this method along with various non-European examples that make it known on the label.
Tank method: Secondary fermentation happens in tank. Prosecco and Asti Spumante use this method. Also called “Charmat Method.”
Injection method: The finished wine is injected with carbon dioxide. It’s a very simple method that yields a less complex and polished wine, but hey, it’s cheap!
Lastly, some tips on tasting champers...
Relax and don't be intimidated - Tasting wine can be an awks moment, especially in restaurants when you are put on the spot to try in front of the whole table, I mean would we actually know if it was corked anyway?! Apparently so.
Describe the wine as friendly or unfriendly - Friendly means more than just saying 'I like it'. Friendly means the flavours are positive flavours, they are nice to smell, or it's a very expressive wine. Friendly means there is no flavour that you dislike.
Associate it to a flavour or experience - It takes time to identify what the taste is. It's easier to say it reminds you of something but you cannot say exactly what, whether it's a banana, a strawberry or a raspberry. But an analogy will make you sound pro. ;)
There is no need to roll champers - As it's a sparkling wine, rolling it around the glass will 'agitate' it so a smell and a sip is all you need.
I hope this has taught you a few things! Next time you're drinking champers try these out and sound like a pro.