Champagne: Sparkle with the bubbly this holiday

Champagne: Sparkle with the bubbly this holiday

Champagne: Sparkle with the bubbly this holiday
Monday, December 21, 2009
By Elizabeth Downer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

As we sprinkle sparkle all around the town and around our homes this time of year, how can we help thinking about sparkling wines? My 90-year-old mother attributes her still-lively lifestyle to her regimen of a half bottle of Champagne every day for almost 70 years. She swears that all those bubbles mean added oxygen going to her brain!

While we tend to call all wine with bubbles “Champagne,” only sparkling wine from the Champagne region 90 miles northeast of Paris can rightfully be so labeled. That Champagne is made from a blend of one white grape, chardonnay, and two red grapes, pinot noir and pinot meunier. It gets its bubbles from a second fermentation in the bottle — methode traditionelle. In this process, sugar and yeast are added to a fermented wine and it’s closed tightly. As the sugar turns into alcohol, the carbon dioxide, a by-product of fermentation, is trapped in the bottle. Because the cellars where this happens are deep and cold, the fermentation is slow and produces the tiniest bubbles. If the wine is labeled blanc de blanc, it is made from chardonnay exclusively, and if it is blanc de noir, it is made only from the red grapes.

Although Champagne is no doubt the queen of sparklers, it certainly is not the only choice when it comes to bubbles. France has many sparkling wines that are not Champagnes. Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria, the United States, Australia and many other countries also make sparklers. Many of these are modeled on French Champagne but others are original wines made from local grapes with an entirely different taste profile. There is even sparkling sake from Japan!


Spanish sparklers are called cava and are made from three white grapes: macebo, parellada and xarello. All cava is made using the traditional method of second fermentation in bottle.

Pure and simple, no added complex descriptions – just a very simple reminder to enjoy what life tosses your way, to celebrate the big and small, the successes and lessons learned from times things didn’t work out as planned. Don’t save the “bubbles” for only the special occasions – everyday we live is enough of a special occasion to pop the cork and enjoy something that celebrates you!


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