Friday, December 31, 2010

Something that Bubbles....

So I received my Everyday Food magazine in the mail the other day. I love it first because it is a mini magazine:), but I also love it because for something so small it is packed with info. In the issue is a great condensed explanation of the major difference in Sparkling Wines. It is actually quite easy once you know the terminology. So in this post I want to take this short and sweet article a few steps further.

Now, a lot of people are not really big fans of sparking wine. They drink it at New Years or will be happy to mix it up with orange juice at brunch, but not really in to breaking out a bottle after work. I think they rather open a bottle of red wine just because you don't have to drink it all in one night which is the thought with sparkling wines that you have to drink up because it will go flat. Now, I have a problem solver for that. A sparkling wine stopper solves that problem. You can keep a bottle of sparkling wine in the refrigerator and keep the bubbles from fading away for about four days with this gadget that cost about four or five dollars at any kitchen store.
Ok so that solves that problem, now for the taste. When I started researching this post I knew I only knew a little more then the average person about Sparkling Wines. Now as I dug and dug and read and read I could not believe why Sparkling Wines are so cheap. I mean they should cost a lot more then they do. The effort that goes into these Sparklers is amazing! They are very fussy to make just like Pinot Noir wines. Pinots need loving care to be produced, and since Sparklers are half the time made from Pinot grapes you can image how fussy it can be. Way more effort then standard wines that is for sure. Did you know that up to SIXTY different wines from different years as well can go into a bottle of Sparkling Wine! They blend them with different years of grapes until they get the taste they want and those are called "non-vintage" Sparklers. Only the very best Sparklers will get a vintage. Those bottles that have a stated vintage are made from grapes that where grown in a perfect growing season where the wine maker knows that the grapes from that harvest will be good enough to stand alone. First read the labels and look for these key words that tell you how much sugar is in the wine:

Extra Brut 0% to .5% sugar
Brut .5% to 1.5% sugar
-These are not sweet at all. They are great to pair with just about anything except of course anything sweet;) This is not a wine that you have alone. This is a food wine only.
Extra Dry(Sec) 1.2% to 2% sugar
-This wine has a little sweetness. This would work with appetizers at a cocktail Summer or Spring time reception with lite seasonal foods.
Dry(Sec) 1.7 to 3.5% sugar
-This is your best type to mix with orange or grapefruit juice or to mix in cocktails. Has a nice sweetness but does not give you that overly sweet taste.
Demi-Sec(Dry) 3.35 to 5% sugar
Doux(Sweet) over 5% sugar
-This is your drink alone at the pool type or to be paired with not too rich deserts. This type is made with more juice and is very juicy:) Italians are best at producing these!
Quick facts:
*Now, not all bottles will be labeled this way. Mostly all Champagnes will but only big fancy US Sparkling Wine producers will take the time to add these terms to there labels. I have noticed the terms on lower priced Sparkling Wines in the last couple of years though.
*Sec means dry in French
*Doux means sweet in French
*Brut is French for rough or raw

A little more info on sparkling wines. Sparkling wines are called different things in different parts of the world, and for sure some taste differently.

In France not only is the famous Champagne produced in the Champagne region but Saumur, Vouvray, Touraine, Cremant de loire that are from the Loire region. France has many different laws that dictate how you can harvest the grapes for theses types and what types of grapes can go into each type. They all can either be white or rose. If it is not grown in the Champagne region you cannot call it Champagne it is called Sparking Wine or a regionally excepted name. This is just the tip of the iceberg for info on France's Sparkling wines read more in these great books:

In Spain sparking wine is called Cava. Cava by law must be made anywhere from one to five types of grapes types: chardonnay, parellada, xarello, macabeo. Like other sparkling and Champagnes, that are non-vintaged, many years of grapes can go into a bottle of Cava.

In Italy sparkling is called Prosecco-Spumante(made from White Prosseco grapes) or Asti-Spumante (can be made from white grapes like Moscato and red/black grapes like Barbera and Nebbiolo)
Quick fact:
*Spumante means foaming in Italin
*Frizzante means fizzy(less then foaming) in Italin

In Germany Sparkling is called Sekt and is made with only white grapes like Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and of course Riesling and Weissburgunder.
Quick fact:
*Sekt means Sparkling Wine in German

On Sparking Wine labels you will also see other words that may be a mystery as well like: Golden, blanc de blanc, rose' and blanc de noirs. These are terms that describe the style in which the wine was made. These terms are mostly found only on American Sparking and French Champagnes.

Golden- fine Sparkling wine that once poured looks like liquid gold usually made from Chardonnay grapes
blanc de blanc- means white from white. Meaning this type is made from only white Grapes. Usually only Chardonnay Grapes.
rose'- off dry(slightly sweet) in taste are made from red grapes, but skins are left on for a very short time compared to reds. Very fruity in smell with a little sweetness, but not too sweet.
blanc de noirs- means white from black. Meaning this type is made from grapes with red skins(french call red grapes black grapes). Only the juice and pulp is used and is white not red like the skin. Usually only Pinot Nior grapes are used to make this type.
Example from Schramsberg
Red- a type that I have seen more and more of. Basically mostly only made of red grapes: Pinot Noir, Brachetto, Cabernet Sauvigono, Merlot, Syrah/Shiraz, Lambrusco. Mumm Napa has a very good explanation of how they make there red sparkling wine called Cuve'e M Red. Basically the grapes are soaked in cold water for a five day period before fermentation and then right after the fermentation process the skins are extracted. Then Mumm completes the fermentation process by aging the wine in French Oak so it picks up a rich and spicy flavor
Example from Astor Wine & Spirits-Brachetto d'Acqui "Rosa Regale" Banfi- 2009
Quick facts:
*Blanc means white in French
*Nior means black in French

There is so much more to know about Sparkling Wines. Below are some great resources that helped me put this post together and can help you have a deeper understanding as well.


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