Valentine’s Day is next week, so whether you are planning a date night out or a romantic evening at home, your night most likely includes a glass of bubbly. Champagne is perfect for celebrating and sparkling wine has the great ability to pair with almost any food and any event, including birthdays, weddings and holidays.
How it's made
The grapes most commonly used in the production of sparkling wine are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier. If the sparkling wine is made from all white grapes, the label will read "blanc de blancs." if it's made from Pinot Noir, it is labeled "blanc de noirs." To create wine that sparkles, a second fermentation takes place in the bottle triggered by the addition of yeast and sugar. The bottles then go through the process of riddling and you are left with a bottle of sparkling wine.
The term "sparkling wine" denotes all wines that have bubbles, but not all sparkling wine can be called Champagne. Only sparkling wine that is made in the Champagne region of France can have that name. For those who prefer the so-called real thing, go with an authentic Champagne from Champagne, France. You'll most commonly see the term "brut" on Champagne labels, which means the wine contains less than 15 grams of sugar per liter. Other common terms include extra brut, which is slightly drier than brut; extra dry, which is between sweet and dry. More and more Champagne houses from France are opening vineyards in California. Roederer Estate (by Champagne Louis Roederer), Domaine Chandon (by Moët & Chandon) and Domaine Carneros (by Taittinger) are just a few of the French producers in California.
Italian sparkling wines include Asti, made from the Moscato Bianco grape in the Piedmont region and Prosecco, made from the grape of the same name in the Veneto region. Prosecco is made using a similar method to Champagne, except that the second fermentation takes place in stainless steel vats. Prosecco is more often dry than sweet and is either fully sparkling (spumante) or semi-sparkling (frizzante).
How to serve champagne
For the best bubbles in your champagne, serve it cold (around 45 degrees). To get the champagne to this temperature, chill it in the refrigerator for at least three hours or pack the bottle in a bucket, tub or sink filled with ice and water for 30 minutes. Once the bottle is open, keep the champagne cold in a bucket filled with a mix of ice and water.
How to safely open a bottle of champagne
While most people think opening champagne involves popping a cork, the cork should ease out of the bottle with a whisper.
Here's how to do it:
- Remove the foil from the wire cage that surrounds the cork.
- Hold down the cork with a cloth, napkin or kitchen towel and twist the tab to loosen the wire cage.
- Tilt the bottle away from you at a 45-degree angle to allow space for the bubbles to expand.
- Grasp the cork, with the cloth still over the top of the bottle, with one hand and gently twist the bottle (not the cork) with the other; let the pressure in the bottle gently force out the cork.
- Pour the champagne into tall glasses slowly.
Recommended Champagnes — Sparkling Wines
Still unsure what sparkling wine to choose? Here are two of our favorites at Topaz:
Ruinart “Blanc de Blancs”
- Nose is powerfully reminiscent of fresh fruits
- Dominant notes of citrus and exotic fruits
- Followed by a touch of jasmine, white peaches and pink peppercorns
Moet Imperial Rose
- Lively, intense bouquet of red fruits (wild strawberry, raspberry, cherry)
- Floral nuances of rose
- A slight hint of pepper
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