Sparkling wines are the hottest category in wine. Always enjoyed on special occasions, folks are drinking them more often than ever before. They are the most versatile wines made, pairing with just about everything on you enjoy. Sparklers are made just about everywhere, from Michigan to Australia. Today we’re focusing on Champagne, the “wine of kings and the king of wines”.
While the accurate origin of sparkling wines is a subject of debate, it’s generally agreed that the French Benedictine monk Dom Perignon discovered sparkling wine. According to legend, his remark after tasting the bubbly wine was “Come quickly, I’m tasting stars”! And so Champagne was born.
Champagne is produced in a very specific way from particular grapes grown in strictly defined areas. Rigorous standards are applied to all wines originating from the Champagne region of France. All Champagne is composed from only three grapes. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. While some Champagnes are made from only Chardonnay (Blanc de Bancs) or solely Pinot Noir (Blanc de Noirs), most are blends of all three grapes. Rose Champagnes are beauties to behold and delicious to drink.
There are six different sweetness levels for Champagne and other sparkling wines. We will focus on the three most popular levels of sweetness. Knowing these levels in order to better pair the wines with your food will provide you a superb experience. Brut is usually the driest style of Champagne poured in the United States. Extra dry is the next level of sweetness. Demi-sec is the sweetest Champagne found in our market. Confused? Don’t be, these French terms are used on many styles worldwide. Sec is French for dry, Extra-Dry is sweeter than Brut and Demi-Sec (half-dry) is actually pretty sweet.
Both Brut and extra dry are usually used as aperitifs. Try brut with fried foods like mushrooms or onion rings. Classic mac ‘n cheese tastes great with a bottle of brut. Smoked salmon sings when paired with extra-dry. Demi-sec works wonderfully with fresh springrolls and spicy sweet chili sauce. Be adventurous!
As Lily Bollinger said, “”I only drink Champagne when I’m happy, and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it, unless I’m thirsty.”