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Beyond the Toast

Posted by Alison Matera on Dec 21, 2017 5:46:03 PM

Lets celebrate!! Are you getting married soon? Expecting a brand new baby into your family? Did you land that dream job you have always wanted? Did those annoying neighbors with the yapping Shih Tzu finally move out of the neighborhood? As we celebrate the special events in our lives there really is only one choice of beverage to mark the occasion, and that would be, of course, Champagne.  

Champagne is the most recognized wine on the planet. This elegant, refined, racy, sometimes forgotten, always appropriate elixir of life pairs well with every occasion, especially weddings and anniversaries. Personally, I never wait for special moments to drink sparkling wine; I will have at least one glass a week (I like to celebrate “life in general”). So, we’ve all been to a wedding reception, and at some point during the festivities someone will inevitably thrust a flute of wine into the air followed by a witty, heartfelt toast, and the wine in that glass is usually Champagne…or is it?

Simply put, there are basically three categories of wine: still wines, dessert wines and sparkling wines. Champagne is a sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wines are Champagne (confused yet?). Sparkling wine is produced all over the world, but true Champagne is only produced in the region of Champagne located 90 miles northeast of Paris. Unfortunately many consumers tend to casually refer to any sparkling wine as “Champagne”, but the truth of the matter is, it is only real Champagne if it comes from that region in France. Due to the history, tradition and production methods of Champagne, it can be some of the most expensive sparkling wines on the market, and there are a host of factors that influence how Champagne and sparkling wines taste. With Champagne, the law mandates their method of production, which is not always the case in other regions. There is only one production method permitted in Champagne and that is called méthode champenoise or the traditional method, other quality sparklers are also produced in this fashion, look for those terms on the label. The other methods are charmat or tank method for bulk wines (everyday sparklers) and the injection method (you can only imagine…hello headache). These methods introduce different levels of quality and character. One indication of good quality is a gentle persistent mousse (the frothy stuff), also the size of the bubbles, the smaller the better, and the length of time that the bubbles remain in the glass.

If you are planning to serve sparkling wine or Champagne at your wedding reception there are several categories to choose from, depending on your taste. For starters, there is non-vintage (a blend of different vintages) and there is vintage (only in the best years). Then you have a choice of Blanc de Blanc (made entirely by white grapes), Blanc de Noir (white wine made from red grapes) and Rosé (the best, usually made by adding still pinot noir for color). Then there is the choice of sweetness level, doux (quite sweet), demi-sec (half dry), sec (slightly sweet), extra dry (off dry), brut (very dry) and extra brut (very, very dry). Brut is the most popular category. Which ever sparkling wine you choose for your next event, remember you don’t have to spend a lot money to get good quality wine. If you are serving a large group, look for sparkling wines from New Zealand, Spain, Italy, Alsace, Loire Valley and Washington State.