Fed up of being fizzed off?

Fed up of being fizzed off? Image

Over the past couple of years we have seen an increasing trend for bubbles; whether it’s for celebrating or simply taking advantage of a ‘Fizzy Friday’ opportunity we just can’t seem to get enough of the stuff.

But how much do you know about the bubbles you are popping? And did you know there is a fizz for almost all occasions.

Let's start with Prosecco…

The perfect Party fizz offering great value under £10. Prosecco really has turned the sparkling wine market on its head. In 2013 alone sales of Prosecco increased by 43% and we all remember the big shortage of 2015.

So, what do we know about Prosecco… It dates back to the 16th Century and up to 2000c we thought the Grape was Prosecco, but it's Glera. Taking only 6 weeks to make from vineyard to bottle using the ‘Charmat Tank Method', the finished product is a clean, crisp easy to drink sparkling with plenty of bubbles. As mentioned Prosecco has had a few bad vintages. This coupled with an increase in demand has meant that prices of Prosecco have risen – but not always in line with quality!

So along came Durello… a sparkling wine from Italy which has become popular off the back of Prosecco. It is found everywhere in the bars of Verona. Originally produced by a few caring wine makers, who made it the same way as champagne with up to six years on its lees in the bottle, it really works as a fresh everyday sparkler.

We import this from Italy direct as with Prosecco. Made in the same way but no intense time issues. The longer it stays in the Stainless chill tanks the better it gets. This rests for 2/3 months on its lees. This grape is Durello, dryer, crisper and more character than Prosecco. I think it works really well as an aperitif and as a mixer with cocktails, which tend to be sweet, working well in contrast as it is dryer than the other ingredients. Not to mention it is better value!

Now for the classic sparklings By ‘classic' I refer to those made with the ‘traditional method' where the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle. (I am not going to get too technical with this one but simply the wine is blended and then put into a bottle with the addition of yeast for a second fermentation).

Champagne… We all love Champagne at Christmas, birthdays, weddings, births, christenings etc. the enjoyment goes on.

Why do we love it so much? It has consistent qualities with a price and range for all, and a following that goes back centuries. We all the sound of a Champagne cork popping.

It is without doubt the most consumed quality fizz in the world.

So, we have all heard of this but what do we actually know?       

Champagne is an area in the North of France, just east of Paris. Only wine made in this area can be called ‘Champagne'. Within the area or ‘Appellation', as it is known, wine makers are only permitted to use Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes.

  • Blanc de Blanc is Champagne made from 100% Chardonnay
  • Blanc de Noir is white Champagne made from red grapes (Krug). The dark-skinned grapes gives the wine its length and backbone.

 

The process of making Champagne is highly labour intensive both in the vineyard and in the winery adding to the high price tag. Expect flavours of biscuits and brioche with the most delicate bubbles.

There are a few different types of Champagne to know. To cover the basics…

  • Non Vintage (NV) Champagne is the signature style of each Champagne house, striving to create the same taste every year.
  • Vintage Champagne will represent more of the characteristics from that specific year. This can come in many styles from many houses and totally different vintages. They generally have longer periods on their lees and longer bottle aging which in turn intensifies the flavours. Great vintages will last for years, they will also lose their fizz and the colour will deepen, giving a more marzipan effect.
  • Prestige Cuvee. This is the proprietary blend considered the top of the producer's range. Moët et Chandon/ Dom Perignon, Louis Roederer / Cristal, Pol Roger / Sir Winston Churchill etc.

 

So, Champagne is champion but which others share in the characteristics…

Crémant is made the same way as Champagne and in many instances using the same grapes, but, it is from outside the region. Most wine producing villages will produce a Crémant and AOC laws govern their usage with strict grape varietal and production methods. These wines are made in the Champagne Method, but custom states that Crémant is used to signify its village or regional differences. These flavours and qualities will vary due to the wine maker, grapes and terroir but in general give great value for money.

Great examples are found from Alsace, Loire, Jura and Bourgogne.

Cava… somewhat ruined by Supermarkets in the past. What they don't realise is that Cava is made the same way as Champagne, with the secondary fermentation in the bottle then stored for 3 years to age in the Bodegas before release.

The main difference between Champagne and Cava are the local grape varieties used. Macabeo, Xarello and Parellada, are the most common, however Chardonnay has been used recently.

The Production of Champagne is controlled by thousands of individual growers, many negociants, and most French Politian's who want their say no doubt. Whereas Cava is governed by 271 producers and very strictly. Look out for the Zero Dosage (no sugar) Cava, it's the new big thing.

Franciacorta from Italy, marketed as the Italian Champagne uses Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Nero to make really high class wines using the same method as for Champagne.

Franciacorta has only been a DOCG since 1995 and the people I have met are more enthusiastic about the quality in this production than anything I have seen - they all want to make the best! Our friends at Ferghettina have even started to make wine in quirky square bottles which encourages more extraction whilst they rest for the 25 months before leaving the winery.

The Rosé from Ferghettina is the finest of extraction made from Pinot Nero. As delicate and elegant as many high-end Rosé Champagnes. Other styles include Vintage, Saten which is a Blanc de Blanc. Also, a Zero Dosage. I highly recommend these wines.

English Sparkling Wines. We are fast becoming a world recognized Sparkling wine producing country, without doubt! Some of our growers are producing wines of envy to the Champenois. Our soil types, chalky clay, similar to the Champagne soil types, can produce quality that is excitingly fine and elegant.

I have yet to taste an English sparkling wine that disappoints. Lots of different flavours, mineral edges and cracking natural acidity to complement some well grown Chardonnay.

There is plenty of choice out there and we support a lovely vineyard on the South Coast called Henners from East Sussex, very close to Bexhill which is producing some stunning award-winning sparkling wines.

Last Updated: 30/08/2017
Author: John Hattersley

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