Let’s get a little guidance on Champagne or sparkling wine shopping! We thought we’d narrow it down to 3-Popular Types of Champagne so when you’re going out to compare and purchase you have at least the appearance of some wisdom!
Have a special occasion, wedding, party, toasting affair and want to look savvy when you are serving your champagne? We’re here to help you and sharing some advice we found because, “all bubbles are NOT created equally!” Champagne incites happy thoughts, new beginnings, it’s opulent, symbaritic. In lieu of having an extensive class, we’re going to focus on three different choices, champagne, prosecco and cava. (no not kava like in Fiji! – that’s another blog by PJ)
To start with, if it says “champagne” on the bottle, you’ll always know where it was made and where it came from: France. But not just France, a special region called Champagne – easy to remember right? And no one else can label their bubbles Champagne either. In this region specific environmental factors, or terroirs, occur that affect the crop’s behavior from farming practices to habitat, plus there is a time honored and closely regulated process used in this region. Always revered at a special occasion and respected, Champagne is well “Champagne” and you can’t go wrong and raising the bar at your bar, literally, will be notice for your toasts or special occasions! Revered in the wine world, champagne is mostly produced from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier grapes. Expect almond, citrus and stone fruit flavours with an elegant bubble structure. Fine, persistent bubbles is usually an indicator of higher the quality. $30-$300
In February, I was in Venice for a Wedding & Romance Forum at the same time as Carnival and the Italian specialty Prosecco was in the house! Prosecco is an Italian white wine which also has a controlled designation of origin, the Glera grape, formerly known as Processo, can be spumante, frizzante, or tranquillo. Other grape varieties may be included. Made from Prosecco grapes, I prefer their fruity and florals with an aging process that gives a sweeter and lighter flavour with less-spritzy bubbles. You could say less persistent bubbles and sound versed! Just before Christmas, I found Prosecco on sale at CostCo. It was twice as much at a retail outlet I found later that day. I’m not sure inventory is always available at CostCo, but ask for it! I was thrilled to buy it, along with my memories from Venice and at an amazing price! usually $12-25
Lastly, a sparkling wine of Denominación de Origen status from Catalonia, also produced in other regions of Spain. Cava is made the same way as Champagne but with different grapes. The Macabeo grape gives a bubble and sparkle that is more floral and fruit-forward. It can be white or rosé. The Macabeu, Parellada and Xarel·lo are the most popular and traditional grape varieties for producing cava. So if you want something as close as possible to Champagne, Cava is your choice and you could call it a “value bubbly.” The Macabeu grape tastes simple with faint floral aromatics, a lemony flavor with a slightly bitter finish that tastes similar to green almonds. The Xarel·lo (sounds like ‘Cheryl-ooh’) grape, is much more aromatic with rich floral aromas with notes of pear/melon. The third grape, Paralleda, is blended for its excellent high acidity and zesty citrus flavors. Together these three Spanish grapes create a balanced fruity sparkling wine that’s less sweet than Prosecco but not as nutty as Vintage Champagne. Ooops, what is a Vintage Champagne you ask?
The main difference between a Vintage and non-Vintage Champagne, is not that the vintage is old but that it is made from the grapes of only one year’s harvest, whereas non-vintage Champagne is a blend of different years’ harvest. Champagne Houses and growers provide a continuous house style through the blending of various vintages, to create the yearly non-vintage Champagne. Whereas a good quality year, will produce a typically fuller, deeper Champagne, making it a vintage year. So, Vintage Champagne must be made 100% from the year indicated on the label. Ooops again, what is a Champagne House? Think: Veuve Cliquot, Moet-Chandon, they are large champagne houses that purchase grapes, even cases of bulk wine from independent growers.
So, get out there read those labels on all that bubbly in front of you. Take home a few varieties and chill out. Literally, Champagne, Prosecco, Cava should be served chilled (50-57-degrees), not cold. You do want your investment to speak to you and your guests with full wisdom, that means allowing it to release it’s full range of flavors, fruits, notes and nuts! Please your palate first, price second!
Pamela (PJ) Ott
Travel & Destination Wedding Expert
* thanks for a few tips Carmen Collins, photos from tuula