If you can get your hands on it, the Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition (view on Vivino) is a truly elegant and evocative bottle of Champagne that’s well worth the increasingly steep price tag. On the more reasonable end of the cost spectrum, the Jansz Tasmania Brut Rosé (view on Drizly) is a well-made and delicious offering with southern hemisphere stylings tempered by classic structure and poise.
What To Look For
Method of Preparation
There are three methods used to create quality sparkling wine: the traditional method (méthode traditionelle or méthode champenoise), the Martinotti (or Charmat) method, and the ancestral method (méthode ancestrale). The traditional method is used to make Champagne, cava, and crémants, and involves reigniting still wine with a secondary fermentation (executed in the bottle) using a mixture of yeast and sugar. These wines age on their lees in bottle and are then disgorged, dosed (if desired), and then recorked prior to selling.
The Martinotti/Charmat method is used to make most lambruscos and proseccos. This process also involves a secondary fermentation that, unlike the traditional method, is executed in pressurized tanks. Charmat method wines are generally fresher, less complex, and are meant to be consumed in their youth. Ancestral method wines (pét-nats or naturally sparkling, for example), only undergo one fermentation, which completes itself in the bottle. As a result, these sparklers often have bits of leftover sediment and/or residual sugar in them. Fear not, though, as these elements are totally harmless.
A key term to look for on your bottle of bubbly is an indication of the sweetness level. We’ve all seen phrases like “brut” and “extra dry” on labels f4vn.com what do they mean? (And does it surprise you to learn that “brut” is actually drier than “extra dry?”)
Champagne producers long ago introduced a sweetness scale that’s now mostly adhered to by producers of sparkling wine worldwide. It goes as follows: doux (“sweet”) is the sweetest category, followed by demi-sec (“semi-dry”), sec (“dry,” but not nearly as dry as the categories that follow).
Then, there is extra dry, then brut (which means “raw” or “rough,” and which makes up over 90 percent of all Champagne produced), then extra brut, and finally brut nature at the driest end of the spectrum. Seek out the sweetness designation on the label and buy according to your sweet tooth!
What’s the difference between Champagne and other sparkling wines?
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Any sparkling wine labeled “Champagne” must be produced within Champagne, a geographical region in northeast France.
However, certain sparkling wines produced elsewhere in the world may be produced using the Champagne method, in which the secondary fermentation, the step which creates the bubbles, takes place in each individual bottle.
Regions producing bubblies made with the Champagne method include Italy (where it’s known as metodo classico), Spain and Portugal (método tradicional), California, Australia, and even regions of France outside of Champagne (where the method is known as méthode traditionnelle).
Many other popular sparkling wines, such as Prosecco and Sekt, are made using less labor-intensive processes than the Champagne method.
How do you properly store sparkling wine?
Store your bubbly like you would any other fine wine: on its side in a cool, low-light environment.
“Cellar temperature” (50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit) is ideal, but even if you don’t have a wine fridge that maintains this temperature, you can get away with keeping your bubbly in a dark closet or cabinet where it will be away from its two main nemeses: heat and light.
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But don’t store your Champagne in the regular refrigerator; the vibrations from the motor and the frequent light will disturb the wine and may alter its taste.
What’s the proper temperature at which to serve sparkling wine?
Serve your sparkling wine at the same temperature you’d serve any crisp white wine—i.e. not freezing, but not far off. (An hour or two in the back of the fridge should bring your bubbly down to a delightful mid-40s.)
That said, there are sometimes certain elements of smell and taste that won’t express themselves until the sparkling wine begins to warm up a bit. “I like to drink Champagne ice cold at the beginning, and prefer to leave it out of the ice bucket, on the table, to allow the wine to come back up to room temperature,” says Matthew Kaner, wine director and co-owner of Los Angeles’ Covell.
“In that manner, the bubbles dissipate and the wine opens up, gaining much more aromatic character. The last few sips are almost always divine.”
Why trust f4vn.com?
This roundup was edited by Jesse Porter, who’s worked as a sommelier for several excellent Champagne programs—and yet who finds it challenging to maintain a decent Champagne collection at home, as they tend to pair so nicely with pretty much any meal.
Vicki Denig is a wine and travel journalist based between New York and Paris. She is a Certified Specialist of Wine through the Society of Wine Educators. Her work regularly appears on Wine-Searcher, VinePair and more. Denig is also the Content Manager for Verve Wine, a bi-coastal retail operation (New York & San Francisco).
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