Recently I have been thinking about wine with bubbles. Champagne, Sparkling Wine, Prosecco….all so delicious and exciting. Hearing the pop of the bottle instantly puts you in a good mood. Well…at least it puts me in a good mood. It’s a sign that it’s time to celebrate! It’s for the good times in life. It’s for celebrating memories you made, and for memories you are going to make and cherish forever.
I find summer is the time for celebrations, and often times, there is some form of bubbly included. One thing I have begun noticing (and wondering if I should collect) are Champagne boxes. Those that have the fancy openings that tell the buyer: “this is quality, this is classic, this is timeless.” For example, Cristal – it has a metal clasp which you have to push in and use as a handle to open the box. Once open, there is a built in envelope with a booklet explaining the history of Cristal. Another example is Dom Perignon – there are two satin ribbons that you need to pull to open the box. Now, we know that these Champagne’s are fantastic in their flavour and yeasty bread notes on the nose and palate, but I also find you can get equally fantastic Sparkling Wine at a fraction of the price.
This leads back to my personal history with Sparkling Wine. It was quite brief, and truly began only a few years ago when I began to learn the history of Champagne and Sparkling Wine. It was on a wine tour at Hillebrand winery that I learned there are different ways to make wine sparkle and bubble. I also called all sparkling wine Champagne until that day. It was the name I associated with the tiny bubbles present in the wine. Little did I know, when I first tasted this delicious elixir, it was indeed a region where this style of wine was discovered. I also learned the history of how Champagne is made, or methode champenoise; now known in the wine world properly as methode traditionelle.
From this moment I looked back at my only recollection of Sparkling Wine, which was quite vague and mostly made into mimosa’s. From the tour at Hillebrand to the present day I have had the opportunity to taste a variety of Sparkling Wines and Champagnes. Everything from the ever popular Baby Duck to Veuve Clicquot to Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catherine. For me there is something about the chemical breakdown of methode traditionelle or methode champenoise that lends the proper yeasty flavours and tiny continuous bubbles that elicits excitement. It is the yeasty, bread like nose that can automatically detect methode traditionelle, and it is this that drives the most precious of Champagne’s and Sparkling Wines.
Besides the method to be used to add the bubbles into the wine, there are many decisions in the process of making Sparkling Wine that need to be addressed. For example, whether or not to make the wine a rose, what to use as the dosage, how expensive of a process to put the wine through, etc. I have to say, there are several rose Champagne’s I absolutely love and would drink over normal Champagne. Number one being Moet Rose, mainly because I like the mix of the yeasty nose, apple, cranberry and slight raspberry palate. I have also had a Pellar Estates Sparkling Wine dosaged with their ice wine that is absolutely spectacular and offers something different to the palate – the hint of honey and apricot. Prosecco always reminds me of a bubbly pino grigio. It is light and slightly fruity, but it doesn’t over-power the senses with a particular flavour. The bubbles, often small, but do not last as long as Champagne. It is a great palette opener, and does pair quite nicely with simple shellfish dishes.
As always, there is much more to learn and explore. I will have several more celebrations this summer, as I’m sure others will too, and the bubbles will be pouring. Please let me know your favourites!