Feeling Bubbly: Champagne Makes the Day

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So, you’re getting married! There are so many things to consider: the dress, the location, the caterer, hotel rooms, the florist and the booze. Ah, yes, the booze — let’s talk about that. More specifically, let’s discuss the bubbly component of your wedding. You need bubbles to celebrate every occasion; however, they happen to be the pinnacle of your wedding reception: the toast!

You think choosing the wines for the wedding are difficult? Well, sparkling wine is a whole other adventure. Sparkling wine has many names over the globe including Asti, Cava, Prosecco, Spumante, Franciacorta. Any country that makes wine invariably produces a wine with bubbles, or a carbonated wine. And, everyone is familiar with the term Champagne, the French version of bubbles and absolute monarch of sparkling wine. You say that word and people recognize it. It connotes luxury. The royals made it famous, after all.

Champagne is the standard-bearer and classic model for sparkling wine, and true Champagne only comes from the Champagne region in France. Its production technique, in fact, was created in France by accident. Pressure in the bottles caused the corks to fly off or even explode.

The method is now universally known as méthode champenoise. This method requires a secondary fermentation in the bottle, which is accomplished by adding a mixture of sugar and yeast. The method in not unique to Champagne anymore, as many regions utilize it. There are also other methods of creating sparkling wine, but the most common two are in the bottle or in a pressurized tank. Wines from Champagne are the best in world, of sparkling or any other type of wine. And that means they come with a hefty price tag.

Champagne pairs well with every type of wedding food: oysters, shrimp cocktail, cheese, vegetables, fresh fruits, chicken, seafood, steak and of course, wedding cake.  The aromas in Champagne are creamy yeast (think bread), apple and pear. The flavors are of apple, citrus, pear and vanilla.

Champagne and sparkling wines are also categorized as vintage or non-vintage (NV on the label), meaning they either come from a single year or are a blend of several different years. The vintage Champagnes are typically pricier, but non-vintage Champagne and sparkling wines make up the majority of the market.

I cannot neglect to mention brut rosé Champagne. Rosé is typically a touch more expensive than regular brut because it involves more time to make and is more labor intensive. It’s also a beautiful pink color. The taste is crisp and clean on the palate.

If pricey Champagne isn’t in the budget for your party of 200, then get one bottle for you and your spouse, and go for the less expensive, but still excellent, sparkling wines of Spain, Italy or California for the crowd.

Cava is mostly produced in Penedes, near Barcelona. It typically has a high acidity and a zesty citrus flavor. Cava is made in the method champenoise, and is quite similar to Champagne, but made with different grapes. The most distinct difference in the wines would be the terroir in which the grapes are grown. Terroir refers to the place where the grapes are grown and considers climate, soil and air. It’s what you can’t replicate and why France is so famous for its wines. Cava is Champagne on the cheap, a truly excellent sub for the real thing. Try Brut rosé Cava.

The Italians are famous for Prosecco, which is grown in the Veneto region of Italy, about 15 miles north of Venice. It’s a sparkling wine made in the Charmat, or tank, method. Prosecco tends to have more fruit and flower aromas, which are a product of the grapes. Because the wines are aged in large tanks with less pressure, Prosecco bubbles are lighter. Finer Prosecco wines often exhibit notes of tropical fruits, cream, hazelnut, vanilla and honeycomb. Prosecco is seriously delicious and very affordable.

California sparkling wines just keep getting better and better. It doesn’t hurt that many French Champagne houses have set up camp there. Taittinger, Roederer and Mumm & Moet Chandon have wineries in California, and they are rocking the scene. There are several styles of California sparkling wines, but my favorite would be Mumm Napa brut rosé. Made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (the same grapes used in Champagne), it tastes of black cherries and citrus and hits a wonderful middle-of-the-road price.

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Sparkling wines and Champagnes are categorized as the following:

Extra Brut — extra dry

Brut — dry (most popular style and very food-friendly)

Extra Dry — middle-of-the-road dry, not as dry as Brut (great as an aperitif)

Demi-sec — fairly sweet (pair with fruit and dessert)

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