Champagne Glasses

champagne-glasses

Few things can symbolize a very special occasion better than a chilled bottle of champagne. From  intimate dinner parties to wedding dinners, it is the wine of choice when only the best will do. And for true wine lovers the style of glass can enhance or detract from your experience. What kind of glass will work best for you?

The Coupe

This classic shape, a wide rim and short stem, is best associated with the 1920’s flappers or the 1960’s. The glass was designed in 17th century England specifically for drinking champagne. However, the glasses were designed for what were really dessert wines, not the fine wines of the current day.

Critics of the coupe shape, or saucers as they are often called, suggest that the wide bowl is so broad that the carbonation falls flat too quickly. And, with the bubbles falling flat, the aroma is also lost.

For wine connoisseurs and those who love the bubbles, this glass style is not your best choice. If you love the history associated with the glass, then sip quickly and enjoy.

The Tulip

This style of glass is similar in design to he flute, but it has a wider base and he rim is curved inward. Unlike the coupe, wine connoisseurs highly recommend this glass because of its ability to retain your wine’s exquisite flavor.

The round bowl at the bottom of the glass keeps  helps to keep the flavor preserved as you sip your wine. The medium- to long-stemmed glass also keeps your fingers from touching the bowl where the champagne is preventing your fingerprints from warming the wine.

The Flute

The flute overtook the coupe shape because of how well it captures the flavor of the champagne. With a medium or long stem, you can hold the glass without altering the wine’s temperature, and  the glass is the perfect shape for the perfect sip.

The shape of the flute gives the right serving amount to keep it cold, aromatic, and bubbly. The flute glass maintains the effervescence after pouring so the bubbles and aroma stay in the glass. And when the bubbles stay in the glass, you can enjoy the bubbly taste and your glass will be more pleasing to look at.

The Stemless

The latest trends in new glass design include a stemless glass. This bowl-shaped glass enhances the taste and the aroma. Since your fingers are on the bowl warming the champagne, critics still prefer the flute.

The critics agree that the flute is your best choice. But take your time to sample them all to find a style that you love as much as your champagne.

How to Buy Budget Friendly Champagne

how-to-buy-budget-friendly-champagne

Your son’s or daughter’s graduation or an expected promotion: both reasons to crack out the the Dom Perignon and celebrate in style.

Sometimes, though, you need a budget-friendly bottle of bubbly or quality sparkling wine to keep the fridge well-stocked on New Year’s Day. With that in mind, here are some tips and great affordable champagnes to check out.

Finding Budget-Conscious Champagnes 

There are definitely some delicious brut champagnes out there that blend affordability, crisp taste and quality.

Roederer Estate Brut, for instance, comes in at around $20 and features a robust, oak-aged fruity essence. It’s bright and citrusy without being overbearing.

http://www.totalwine.com/eng/product/roederer-estate-brut/454750

Another standout brut champagne from California is Gloria Ferrer Sonoma. Like Roaderer Estate, Gloria Ferrer Sonoma blends a fruity essence with smoother notes. In this case, you’re getting a mixture of pear and an almond aftertaste.

http://www.gloriaferrer.com

The secret to these two budget champagne’s is their appellation in California’s vineyards and dedication to quality ingredients. Gloria Ferrer Sonoma starts with nearly two dozen base wines to ultimately give a rich, bubbly and extremely budget-friendly final product.

Wine Spectator magazine even conceded that Gloria Ferrer Sonoma deserved a score in the 90s due to its complex taste that blended pear, cinnamon and raspberry without being overbearing.

Since Gloria Ferrer Sonoma sells for between $15 and $25, you won’t have to break the bank to find out what all the praise is about.

Overall, though, you should keep your eyes peeled for low-cost bruts that bring together an eclectic range of base wines with California appellations.

Nitty-Gritty Specifics to Look For 

Price is obviously a primary consideration when you need a few affordable stand-by (or stand-in) bottles of champagne or you know that quantity is going to trump discernment on, say, a riotous New Year’s celebration.

You should be keeping your eyes peeled for an affordable champagne – under $50 – that draws from a host of quality base wines to form the champagne’s cuvee.

An eclectic range of base wines that undergo two fermentations should also provide more bubbles and ultimately a richer taste. Also be aware that base wines that are tank fermented tend to provide a more airy, fruity taste.

Another thing to keep in mind is that although many brut champagnes tend to have moderate sweetness, there are extra dry champagnes out there that give you more idiosyncratic and interesting honeydew and brioche flavors.

Remember that the majority of budget champagnes tend to be bruts, and make sure you find an affordable champagne that draws from many base wines to bring out a delicious, fruity aftertaste.

Why Are Champagne Corks Made Out of Natural Cork?

why-are-champagne-corks-made-out-of-natural-cork

There’s just something about natural cork. Newer technology may have its devotees, but there’s a good reason why good, old-fashioned cork is used to seal champagne bottles. Even if you set aside years of tradition and the satisfying “pop” you just can’t get with any other material, there are still plenty of benefits to traditional cork over synthetic materials and screw tops.

How It’s Made

Cork actually comes from the bark of the cork tree, which grows primarily in the montado forests of Portugal. Responsible harvesting makes cork a renewable resource, and small teams typically harvest the bark, allowing the trees to survive and the bark to regrow. The cork bark can usually be be harvested again every nine years.

Once harvested, the cork bark is cured, graded, sorted and then processed into natural cork disks and rods of agglomerate cork. The rods are sliced into the individual corks used to seal champagne bottles, with a natural cork disk affixed to each end.

The Natural Cork Difference

The key characteristic of natural cork that makes it perfect for sealing champagne bottles is its ability to expand. Pressure beverages like champagne – along with sparkling wines, ciders and some beers – are bottled at great pressure, and they require a seal that can prevent the escape of gases while at the same time maintaining the perfect gas pressure within the bottle. That’s where natural cork comes in.

When compressed, natural cork expands. The typical cork used to seal a champagne bottle has a diameter of 31 millimeters, but is compressed down to a diameter of 18 millimeters to fit into the bottle neck. Once in place, the cork naturally continues to expand, which allows it to keep constant pressure against the glass bottle neck. This pressure keeps gas from escaping, and makes natural cork the perfect stopper material for a champagne bottle.

That Tell-Tale Shape

You can tell a natural cork has done its job by its shape when you remove it from the bottle. You’ve probably noticed that corks come out of a champagne bottle with a recognizable mushroom shape, but they don’t go in that way. Corks are straight when they are inserted into the neck. The mushroom shape is the result of the lower half of the cork being compressed into the bottle neck, while the upper half continues to expand.

The Trouble With Synthetic Corks

Unlike natural cork, synthetic corks do not expand. They maintain a rigid shape, which can mean a loose fit and imperfect seal in some bottles. Ill-fitting corks can ruin a bottle of perfectly good wine or champagne.

Natural corks are also difficult to remove without a corkscrew, whereas natural corks are designed to be removed from a champagne bottle by hand. Just remember to never point the bottle at yourself or anybody else while you open it. Champagne bottles stopped with natural cork tend to open with a powerful “pop,” sometimes sending the cork flying. It’s a small price to pay for a perfect seal!

What Does Bubble Size Say About A Champagne?

what-does-bubble-size-say-about-champagne

Drinking champagne is as much a cultural phenomenon as a culinary one. We celebrate grand openings, graduations and marriages by popping the cork on a quality champagne, and we also enjoy a creamy brut champagne paired with our favorite appetizer perhaps almost as much as the overarching occasion.

Bubbles in Champagne 

Often colloquially referred to as “bubbly,” the bubbles in champagne actually have a lot to do with the popularity of, say, a brut over a doux champagne.

History 

Although today we can dine over a Krug or Laurent-Perrier brut without worrying about much of anything, this wasn’t always the case.

Champagne was once called the devil’s wine because of its propensity to spontaneously explode – sometime causing a chain reaction in fermenting cellars.

In fact, the famous 17th-century champagne trailblazer, Dom Perignon, was commissioned to remove the bubbles from the champagnes in his cellar.

Even two centuries after Dom Perignon, it wasn’t uncommon to lose half of your fermenting inventory to exploding bottles of especially bubbly champagne.

Less is More 

Champagne enthusiasts claim that the smaller the bubbles, the better the champagne. The thinking goes that when you have smaller bubbles in the same size glass, then there are more total bubbles on hand to deliver a full-bodied taste and richer aroma.

The actual bubbles in champagne are created through the secondary fermentation process that sparkling wine undergoes to eventually become champagne.

Though this secondary fermentation process, the sparkling wine becomes champagne and, in the same process, gets carbonated. Carbonation, or the infusion of carbon dioxide into champagne, is what makes champagne and soda alike fizzy or effervescent.

Unlike soda, though, champagne is created by taking select pinot noir and chardonnay grapes plucked from orchards in the Champagne region of France to ultimately deliver a creamy champagne tasting experience.

Research on Champagne’s Carbonation 

Although both soda and champagne, for all of their differences, each has an appreciable level of “fizzy” or carbonation, the carbonation is created in different ways for each beverage.

Champagne gets its bubbles and carbonated quality in a more hard-won way through secondary fermentation whereas soda gets its bubbles through an artificial process of a carbon dioxide injection.

In an interesting twist, though, research shows that the diffusion of carbon dioxide in sparkling wine and champagne are reasonably similar – much more similar than one would suppose given that champagne has smaller and more tightly packed bubbles.

It’s subsequently been shown that, although the amount of carbonation wrought by secondary fermentation has a lot to do with champagne’s fizziness, the bubbles in champagne are largely attributable to other causes.

It’s now believed that elemental minerals and naturally-occuring salts create more of champagne’s bubbles than was previously acknowledged (or understood) centuries ago.

Science Behind Champagne’s Bubbles 

Secondary fermentation and carbonation are fundamentally chemical processes that provide a real-world and visceral payoff for those of use who enjoy champagne.

One of the pleasures of champagne, if we’re going to be frank, is watching the tiny bubbles make their way up to the top of the glass and anticipating that first taste.

As these tiny bubbles make their brave trek up to the top of the glass, the bubbles themselves are transporting flavors and scents up the glass – and, hopefully, towards our parched mouths.

We almost automatically correlate a great tasting champagne with an explosion of bubbles at the top of our glass because more tiny bubbles means that more flavor and scents are traveling up the glass.

This spectacle, in the end, is half the battle when it comes to creating a creamy yet dry and savory champagne.

Champagne Bottle Sizes

champagne-bottle-sizesIt is always a wonderfully relaxing experience to enjoy a flavorful glass of champagne alone or with one of your favorite meals. There are many things that contribute to your enjoyment of champagne. One of those things is the way in which champagne is fermented.

The Process

The initial process of making champagne is similar to that of making most wines. Grapes are picked and fermented. A second process takes place inside the champagne bottle. Yeast and sugars are added to the fermented grapes and the combination is stored inside the champagne bottle to undergo the second fermenting process (aging). It is during this process that the size of the champagne bottle can have a effect on the quality and taste of champagne that is produced.

Champagne bottle sizes

The size of champagne bottles began to vary in the 1700s. As the sizes of bottles varied it was discovered that larger bottles have to have a few advantages to the smaller champagne bottle sizes. Aesthetically, the larger bottles seem to be more appealing to champagne drinkers. The larger bottles allow for better aging of the champagne. The different sizes of champagne bottles each have a different name with a different meaning. The list of champagne bottle names follows:

Piccolo means small. It is the smallest size of champagne bottle that you will find. It holds one tulip of champagne.

Demi is a 375 ml bottle for champagne. You will be able to pour at least 3 flute glasses of champagne.

Bottle is the standard sized bottle from which you will enjoy 6 glasses of champagne.

Magnum means “great” in Latin. It is seen by the producers of champagne as a “great” bottle to use to age champagne. You will enjoy at least 12 glasses of champagne from the Magnum.

Jeroboam holds about 24 glasses of champagne. The name comes from the first king who ruled the Northern Kingdom in Israel. The name means, “he increases the people”.

Rehoboam is also named after a king who, during the 10th Century BC, ruled over the Kingdom of Judah. The name means, “he who enlarges the people”. This bottle contains 36 glasses of champagne.

Methuselah is named after a person of the Bible who is said to have lived longer than any other person. This bottle contains 64 glasses of champagne.

Salmanazar holds a total of 72 glasses of champagne which is equal to about 12 bottles of champagne. The name is a combination of names from five different Assyrian kings.

Balthazar holds 96 glasses of champagne, approximately 16 bottles. Named after an Arabian King who was present after the birth of Jesus and presented him with gifts.

Nebuchadnezzar contains 120 glasses of champagne. It is named for one of the most powerful kings of Babylon.

Solomon is a rare bottle of champagne. It is usually only found in champagne houses in France. The amount of champagne this bottle contains is debatable, however the popular amount accepted is 144 glasses of champagne.

Sovereign holds 34 bottles of champagne.

Primat contains the equivalent of 36 bottles of champagne and weighs about 143 pounds.

Melchizedek, the final bottle of champagne, contains 40 bottles of champagne.

How Champagne Flavors are Categorized

how-champagne-flavors-are-categorizedChampagne is an oft-misunderstood beverage. The processes by which it is formed, its taste, and even its naming conventions can baffle even a seasoned wine aficionado. While champagne may mystify experienced imbibers and practiced gourmands alike, the basics behind how it is classified are quite simple to understand.

Just as many types of wine are categorized by their flavor profiles, champagnes too are often classified according to how they taste. All champagnes can be categorized according to their level of dryness. This quality is inversely related to sugar content and corresponding sweetness. This means that less sweet champagnes are invariably drier than sweeter varieties. Wine connoisseurs, it must be said, tend to value the sophistication of drier varieties over the simple pleasures of sweet champagnes.

Whether you are carefully selecting a champagne for a celebration, or simply trying to find the one most suitable for your weekday meal, you can use the following categories to guide your purchase:

  •     Doux
  •     Demi-sec
  •     Dry
  •     Extra Dry
  •     Brut
  •     Extra Brut

If you were seeking a sweet, sugary champagne, you would do well to purchase a Doux or Demi-sec variety. These sorts of champagnes pair well with fruits and desserts. Their natural sweetness can harmonize well with either and provide your guests with a satisfyingly sweet conclusion to their meals. In addition, if you are feeling bold, you can successfully pair a Doux or Demi-sec with a salty dish. The natural sweetness of these champagnes complements the salty flavors in Asian and Latin American dishes, further enlivening them on the palate.

Extra Brut and Brut (pronounced “broot“) are dry varieties and tend to pair better with entrees and cheeses than do Doux and Demi-sec champagnes. Extra Brut champagnes function best as aperitifs. They are best served before a meal when their natural tartness and astringency can be used to stimulate the appetite. Brut champagne, which has a crisp, bracing dryness leavened with subtly sugary notes, is the most popular of all champagne varieties. It is versatile and can accompany either entrees or desserts successfully. Extra Brut and Brut champagnes can, in fact, make admirable accompaniments to subtly sweet desserts. They make excellent companions to desserts containing dark and semi-sweet chocolate, as well as fruit-based sweets.

While champagnes are commonly classified according to the dryness-sweetness scale outlined above, there are a range of characteristics you can you use to help you select just the right champagne for any occasion. All champagnes can reasonably be said to possess apple, pear, citrus, cream, vanilla, and nutty notes in their flavor profiles. Generally, however, fruitier notes tend to prevail in New World champagnes while their Old World opposites feature creamy, yeasty and nut-like flavors. Old World varieties are often more subtle, while New World champagnes can possess a forward and assertive sweetness that makes them suitable as dessert wines or for celebrations.

Champagne has an undeserved reputation for unsophistication. It is irreducibly associated with sweetness and, as a result, often paired only with foods complementing this dimension of its often complex flavor profile. Champagne is typically paired with chocolates, fruits, and cheese and while these pairings are not misguided they do tend to foreground only one aspect of the beverage’s multifaceted personality. Champagne, if selected carefully, can be paired with many different food items.  It is neither less sophisticated nor less versatile than wine. One needs only to understand its flavor spectrum to incorporate it into any occasion.

What Types of Grapes are Used to Make Champagne?

what-types-of-grapes-are-used-to-make-champagneChampagne is widely used in many occasions and in many countries. There are many styles of champagne as well as types. In fact they are designed to please a variety of taste preferences. It is also best known for its bubbly appearance and taste. All champagnes have one thing in common, they are made with grapes. The many various vineyards, mainly in France, grow specific varieties especially for champagne.

What is champagne and what is it made of?

Champange is a white sparkling wine. It is usually associated with luxury. It is typically made in France. There are rules in the making of champagne that demand there be a secondary fermentation of a wine in a bottle to create the carbonation so well known in champagne.

Champagne is, generally, made up of a complex bending of wines. It is not just made from a blend of grape varieties but of wines. Usually, these wines area from vineyards throughout regions of France known for Champagne. Also, these wines tend to be a blend of different vintages.

What grapes are used in making champagne?

When champagne is made there are three primary grape varieties used. These grapes add different components to champagne. The three grape varieties used most are:

  • Pinot Noir
  • Pinot Meunier
  • Chardonnay

There are a few grape varieties that may still be used in champagne, although rarely. Petit Meslier, Arbanne, and Pinot Blanc are among those still permitted in the making of champagne. However, they can not be replanted and have little to do with the process anymore.

What do these varieties add to a champagne?

Pinot Noir is a red type of grape. The components in this variety add structure, body, and aroma. It also adds to the complexity of the flavors in the champagne. Pinot Noir is viewed by most of its producers as one of the finer grapes.

Pinot Meunier is also of the red variety and is related to the Pinot Noir. This grape tends to contribute to the readiness of a champagne. Usually these champagne types can be consumed sooner than other types of champagne. Pinot Meunier adds to the fuitiness of the drink. It also effects the floral aromas.

The Chardonnay is a white grape. This is said to be the star in the Champagne region. Its components give elegance and finesse to the champagne. It also contributes to the freshness and delicacy. Chardonnay is used often in the most prestigious Champagnes.

The components and attention to detail in the flavoring of champagne is what makes it most appealing to many enthusiasts. This is why champagne is so often seen in special occasions and with luxurious gatherings.

Why is Champagne Bubbly?

why-is-champagne-bubblyChampagne (and sparkling wine) has long been associated with celebration, romance, and the finer things in life. Whether you are planning a party for one hundred of your closest friends or wish to share a special evening with your spouse, the tingle of champagne bubbles will enhance any occasion. Yet, few of us understand the science inside those little bubbles; since its the bubbles that separate regular wine from champagne, learning more about how those bubbles get into each bottle can be fascinating.

All Champagne and Sparkling Wine Begins on the Vine

As with the production of regular wine, champagne production begins with one or more types of grapes harvested at perfect ripeness. Depending on the type and quality of the final product, grape varieties will be selected to produce white, pink, and occasionally red champagnes ranging from dry to sweet. After the first fermentation process is complete, these wines require a second fermentation to become the bubbly, sparkling beverage many of you enjoy.

Three methods are available to transform wine into champagne, although technically only one will produce genuine champagne, while the other two methods produce sparkling wine (for technical purposes, the terms champagne and sparkling wine are often interchangeable, but for true champagne enthusiasts, the distinction may be of importance).

True Champagnes are Aged for Long Periods of Time

To receive classification as true champagne, the slow, traditional method of fermenting fine wine into its bubbly cousin by adding additional yeast and sugar to the wine must take place in the French city of Champagne itself, where bottles are stored for at least 15 months to allow the natural fermentation process plenty of time to develop bubbles that last a long time after the bottle is opened. During the second fermentation period, the bottles are slowly turned upside down to allow the fermentation residue to settle in the neck of the bottles. After a brief freezing which forces the residue out of the bottles, one more dosage of yeast and sugar is added to each bottle which is then corked, caged, and allowed to ferment for many more months or even years for some of the finest champagne varieties.

Simpler Methods Produce Bubbles at a Lower Cost

The tank method, while technically producing sparkling wine as opposed to champagne, allows the wine to undergo a second fermentation with the addition of yeast and sugar in a large pressurized tank as opposed to individual bottles. Since the bubbly, sparkling wine is bottled under pressure, the bubbles remain in tact until the bottle is opened and enjoyed, producing a similar experience as their more expensive champagne relatives at a more affordable cost.

The lowest priced sparkling wines are produced with the bicycle pump method. This entire process is completed under pressure in the same manner used to produce carbonated sodas. Carbon dioxide is the gaseous agent that allows the bubbles to liven up traditional wine varieties, and although these bubbles won’t last as long as those produced with the previous two methods, in many situations, that bubbly treat will disappear into the mouths of those enjoying the celebration at hand before they have time to escape.

There is a Perfect Champagne or Sparkling Wine Variety for Every Occasion

Regardless of whether you wish to share sparkling wine varieties produced with carbon dioxide for a large group of people or are celebrating a very special evening that calls for only the finest true champagne imported directly from France, the large number of champagne and sparkling wine products available allow everyone the opportunity to enjoy simple elegance any time of the year.

Has the California Drought Burst Your Bubbles?

Have a glass of your favorite sparkling wine in hand? Good – savor every drop. Drought and Farming have never been a good word combination, and with California in the midst of one of the worst droughts in the century we should all do a little rain dance for our favorite wine growers and makers. Here’s the good news: the overseas market is so competitive that most wine makers and purveyors won’t be able to raise their prices much at all without the risk of losing customers.

The bad news? If crop yields continue to decline as the result of the drought, some of your favorite vineyards may go out of business. That’s not good for any of us, especially since the first ones to go are the smaller family-run and boutique vineyards that help to keep the wine industry exciting.

California Drought Shouldn’t Affect Your Bubbly Anytime Soon but a Little Rain Would be Nice

Here’s the reality – some vineyards are drying up, others are faring a little better. In an article on wine-searcher.com, Lake County vineyard owner and manager David Weiss said, “I’ve been growing grapes for 20 years, and we haven’t seen anything like this. If we don’t get significant rainfall between now and bud break, the vines are going to suffer.” Growing grapes requires quite a bit of water. In a drought year, the water table shrinks significantly and some wells will actually dry up, forcing grape growers to buy their water, an incredibly expensive endeavor and one that gets agitated neighbors and community members pointing fingers.

“Wine is a luxury, it’s not a necessity,” said Rosemary Bourgault in an interview with Bloomberg’s James Nash. “I love wine. I love the industry,” commented Bourgault, “but we need to protect our water sources, not abuse them. Water is priceless.” This sentiment is one that is shared by many of the residents that live in areas that produce wine grapes. While that opinion is understandable, it’s difficult for long-time family wine growers, many of whom have grown grapes for five generations or more, to hear that their livelihood isn’t worth fighting for or worthy of community support.

Most wine experts agree that although this current drought will come to an end, more dry seasons will be upon us. Climate change predictors show that while areas like Napa’s wine growing regions may dry up, the climate in other areas will become more ripe for growing grapes (pun intended), and that brings a huge sigh of relief for those of us who love to drink sparkling wines.

How Will the Drought Affect California Sparkling Wine Consumers?

So the question remains: “How will the current drought affect California’s sparkling wine industry and its consumers?” Nobody can be 100% sure of the answer, only time and future grape harvests will tell. But here’s what the experts are predicting:

  • For this year, all signs point to a good harvest and that bodes well for the consumer. The drought and the heat have caused the harvest to commence a couple weeks early, but most of the crop yields are still within a desirable range, albeit smaller than previous years.
  • Winemakers will get smarter and more creative with the ways they irrigate, or don’t, and where they choose to grow their grapes. This should still yield large enough grape harvets to ensure sparkling wine prices won’t be affected in the near future.
  • We may see some delicious sparkling wines as a result of the drought. Did you know that forcing vines to grow longer, stronger roots to access water at deeper soil levels often yields a more robust and flavorful grape? 2014 and 2015 may produce some surprising award-winning sparkling wines.

For now, most farmers and wine aficionados are trying to maintain a positive outlook. Hopefully, a combination of creative growing practices and improved weather conditions will get the industry back on track. In the meantime, toasting your glass to a nice rain storm or two wouldn’t be the worst idea. Cheers!