Yesterday I shared with you my perspective on sparkling wine from 5 years ago. What happened in the past 5 years in the world of bubbly? Champagne is still a Champagne, as invented hundreds years ago, right? I would like to summarize the differences in two words: diversity and abundance.
Of course nobody invented Cava, Prosecco, Sekt or Cremant in the past five years – those sparkling wines had been around for hundreds of years. But never before were sparkling wines so abundantly available in United States – lots of them of a great quality and finesse, rivaling Champagne in taste and even more certainly, in price (average price of Champagne increased by about $5-$10 per bottle, depending on the brand and the actual wine store).
Diversity is another phenomenon in the world of sparkling wines – each and every category of the sparkling wines, including Champagne, has a lot more brands and styles widely available in many wine stores. Talking about Champagne, have you heard of Growers Champagne five years ago? I’m sure you did, if you are in the wine trade, but very unlikely if you are not. As we discussed before, majority of the Champagnes is produced by few big Champagne houses. For the most cases, those Champagne houses are not growing their own grapes, they are buying them from the growers. Some of the growers are also started making Champagne, which can be very distinctive and of a very good quality – I mentioned my experiences with Growers Champagnes a number of times before (you can find old posts here and here). Also increasingly available French sparkling wines made outside of Champagne appellation – they are often called Cremant and you can easily find Cremant de Alsace, Cremant de Bordeaux, Cremant de Bourgogne, Cremant de Jura, Cremant de Loire in many wine stores around you.
Going outside of France, more and more sparkling wines are made all over the world. While Italy, Spain, Germany and US where always on the bubbly’s map, during the last couple of years I was able to taste sparkling wines from Argentina, Australia, Georgia (Georgian Sparkling wine, called Bagrationi, was our favorite wine during blind tasting, beating out classic Champagne and many other – you can read about it here), South Africa, Switzerland and Uruguay. Next to this geographic diversity is number of grapes used nowadays for production of the sparkling wines. Traditional Champagne, as well as many of the Cremant wines and sparkling wines made in US and Italy, are made out of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – however, in addition to this short list I tried sparkling wines made out of Chasselas, Chinebuli, Gamay, Malbec, Shiraz and Vidal (here is the post). A number of sparkling wines were also made using natural and biodynamic methods – I had a number of outstanding French sparkling wines made from Gamay (here is the post). If you are interested in this particular category ( natural Sparkling wines), I would highly recommend checking PJ Wine web site, which boasts excellent selection.
No matter what you are celebrating, there is always a special bottle of sparkling wine waiting for you. There is also nothing wrong with celebrating just another day. But considering that tomorrow is a New Year, make sure you have a good supply of the bubbly – no matter where it is from or what grape it is made out of, it is guaranteed to make your moment special. Happy New Year! Cheers!
Champagne! Of course, Champagne. No celebration is complete without the toast of “bubbly” – New Year’s arrival, wedding anniversary, winning of the Grand Prix, christening of a new ship, and many other occasions, big and small are acknowledged with Champagne.
Champagne is a very interesting subject in general, but even more so when New Year’s arrival is around the corner. You can find articles and blog posts about Champagne everywhere – here is a good example, post by Dr. Vino. Well, let’s join the conversation about Champagne.
Champagne is a wine which belongs to the group of so called “sparkling wines” – the wines with many tiny bubbles (there are at least 49 million bubbles in a bottle of champagne – feel free to count yourself if you don’t believe it). As many other things in life, discovery of Champagne is a combination of accident and luck – on a very primitive level, not fully fermented bottle of wine was frozen, then temperature rose, fermentation restarted (this time, in a bottle) – voila, you got a bottle of Champagne.
Well, small clarification will be appropriate – Champagne is both a wine and a place – in France, of course, where else. Are Champagne and Sparkling wine synonyms? No. Any Champagne is Sparkling wine, but not any sparkling wine is Champagne. Only sparkling wines produced in Champagne region in France using so called méthode champenoise can be called Champagne. All other sparkling wines produced outside of the Champagne region, even using the same method, can only be called Sparkling Wine.
Let’s play a little game which we will call “what is in the name”. Champagne only comes from Champagne, what about about other sparkling wines? Today sparkling wines produced everywhere, from wide variety of grapes and at ever increasing pace. Only this year I had sparkling Malbec (very good) and sparkling Shiraz (don’t do it). In United States sparkling wines are produced in California (lot’s of good wines), Oregon, New Mexico (surprisingly good), New York and many other states. Traveling through the world, a lot of sparkling wines have their own names. Let’s see if you will recognize some of them:
Prosecco – sparkling wine from Italy
Sekt – sparkling wine from Germany
Cava – sparkling wine from Spain
Cremant – sparkling wine from France (Cremant d’Alsace, Cremant de Bourgogne, Cremant de Loire, Cremant du Jura and many others)
Blanquette de Limoux – comes from Limoux in Languedoc, France with the claim of being the first Sparkling Wine, before Champagne became Champagne.
Champagne is endless subject – no way to cover it in the short blog post. Let’s stop our world tour right here, and let’s talk about the celebration “at hands” – New Year 2011. What bottle are you going to open to celebrate arrival of the New Year? How about a little dream? Again, you said? True, just a few days ago I wrote a post about the wines to dream of. Something was missing in that post, I think – and that “something” is … Champagne! There was no Champagne mentioned in that list. So we need to fix it. And if you need a Champagne to dream of, I have only one recommendation – Krug.
If you wonder why I so focused on one and only one Champagne, I can tell you – I had a chance to try it, and I was blown away. At the PJ Wine Grand Tasting event in November 2009, Krug 1996 was served among others, no doubt excellent Champagnes (Veuve Clicquot Rose, Dom Perignon 2000, …). I made a mistake – pretty much fatal, as it appeared – to start tasting from the Krug 1996. I had vintage champagnes before, and never really appreciated them. Krug 1996 was something else – with richness of freshly baked bread, nutty and creamy, fine-tuned refreshing acidity, ultimately balanced – it was incredible. All the Champagnes in that tasting, with pedigree or not, literally tasted like water next to Krug 1996. Yes, this wine is expensive (about $300+, you can check the price here), but it worth every penny – and worth dreaming about. And if you need to expand your Champagne dream list, you can find a lot more recommendations here.
There are few days left before we will toast new hopes, new dreams, new desires with the New Year 2011. No matter what will be in your glass, I wish for your wildest dreams to become reality. Raise your glass To Life, and keep dreaming!