Sparkling wine has this charm that it can please as much new drinkers as wine connoisseurs. It’s probably the most cheerful of the wines and some could almost see it as therapy.
One can’t talk about sparkling wines without mentioning the king of sparkling: Champagne. Plus this month, celebrating the silver jubilee of Le French May, the chosen region of the GourMay (www.frenchgourmay.com) is this illustrious region.
A quite common mistake that makes the Champenois winkled (to say the least) is people presenting any sparkling as “Champagne”. Another thing we still hear from time to time, especially in this part of the world, is any type of brandy being designated as “Cognac”. That would be the same as calling any red wine “Bordeaux”. While Champagne is a region, Cognac a city and Bordeaux a region and a city, all situated in France, obviously the product has to come from these delimitated places to be labelled as such.
There are numerous techniques to make sparkling but here are three of the most common. The most praised is the Champagne method – designated as “Traditional Method” around the world, as the Champagne region is rather pugnacious to protect its name – and is considered the best technique to make quality sparkling. This technique is quite complex, long and labour-intensive, hence more costly. One part of the process of the traditional method that gives the chamagne its distinctive taste is the second fermentation happening in the bottle by adding yeast and sugar. After the yeast “eats” the sugar and transformes it into alcohol and CO2 it dies and creates a deposit called “lees”. The wine then stays “on lees” (“sur lie”) for few months (e.g. minimum 12 for Champagne) to several years which will give the wine more refined bubbles, more complexity and this “yeasty”, “buttery”, “toasty” and with ageing “nutty” aromas. The most prominent appellations using the “traditional method” beside Champagne are Crémants of Alsace, Bourgogne and Loire in France, Cava in Spain, Franciacorta in Italy and some sparkling (Sekt) in Germany.
A second technique quite commonly used is the Charmat method where the second fermentation is done in a closed tank. The taste can be quite similar to the traditional method but with less complexity and the bubbles won’t be as refined. This technique is very common in the production of the Italian Asti and Prosecco Spumanti.
The last and very least technique is simply to carbonate a still wine like any soda. This is of low quality with untactful and quickly disappearing bubbles and if I mention it, it is just so you know that you had better run in the other direction if anyone proposes you a glass.
Portuguese sparkling wine presented in a traditional and elegant bottle, using the traditional method and made100 percent from the Portuguese indigenous white grape Malvasia Fina – i.e. Blanc de Blancs, when it’s made from 100 percent white grapes, or Blanc de Noirs if only composed of red grapes. This is a simple and very affordable wine (about three times cheaper than a Champagne), easy drinking, well balanced yet with enough complexity for not being boring. Nice bouquet of jasmine, white peach and pear, it is a medium body wine with delicate bubbles, smooth attack on red apples, aromas of nutmeg, chalkiness, hot bun and good lasting on lime peel and minerals.
While most of the big Champagne houses will make rosé by adding red wine (and charge 30-40 percent more for that but shh…), boutique vineyards like this one tends to use the saignée method – getting the colour from the maceration of red grape. This wine is what you could expect from a Champagne Rosé: vivid and cheerful pink colour, nose of red fruits and blossom, very refine mousse (almost four years on lees) and aromas of strawberry and raspberry with a very good lingering and fresh finish. Easy drinking, cheerful and with great complexity, a perfect wine for many occasions. David Rouault*
Wines available in some local supermarkets and for the Champagne at www.wine118.com.
*David Rouault is a professional classical musician, part time wine consultant and full time wine lover, holding WSET
Level 3, Certified Specialist of Wine and Introductory Sommelier diplomas. www.dionysos.com.mo