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Bubbly 101

I can't deny it, I love champagne. It's just one of those things, like painted nails, Marc Jacobs handbags, and vanilla cupcakes, that I wholeheartedly love. I find myself inventing reasons to pop open a bottle of bubbly and my desire to know more about champagne extends beyond the usual mmm-this-tastes-yummy interest.

I've decided that champagne, or any sparkling wine really, is a drink of glamorous sophistication and simplistic elegance and should be treated as such. Basically in order for me to truly appreciate champagne, I need to fully understand it. For my lesson on sparklers,

  • All champagne is sparkling wine but not all sparkling wine is champagne. The name champagne refers to the sparkling wines produced in the Champagne region of northeast France.
  • At the end of World War I, the name champagne was actually protected in the Treaty of Versailles, sort of patenting the drink to classify only those sparkling wines made from Champagne's grapes. However the U.S. never officially signed the treaty, therefore some American producers of sparkling wines have named their product champagne. For example, Korbel produces a sparkling wine on American soil and has named it champagne.
  • Sparkling wines are produced in many places throughout the world, and like champagne have various names based on the location of their production. The sparkling wines that are produced in Italy are called prosecco or spumante. Spain's sparkling wines are called cava and a German produced sparkling wine is called sekt. Unfortunately the sparkling wine that is produced in California and New York was never coined a fun and fabulous name, and is plainly christened sparkling wine.
  • Sparkling wines are labeled based on their sweetness. Sparkling wines are either sweet or dry. A dry bubbly has no sweet taste. If you take a look at a bottle of sparkling wine, you will notice that there is no mention of sweetness or dryness. However you may notice the words, brut or sec, both of which refer to the sweetness of the wine. Here's my handy dandy quick translation:

    Doux: is the sweetest type of sparkling wine out there thus making it a dessert sparkling wine (over 5% sugar).
    Demi-sec: not quite as sweet as doux, still very sweet (3.3 - 5% sugar).
    Sec: although in French it literally translates to dry, this sparkling wine is sweet (1.7 - 3.5% sugar).
    Extra dry: is in between and has both hints of sweetness and dryness (1.2 - 2% sugar).
    Brut: is the most common type of sparkling wine, and is dry (less than 1.5% sugar).
    Extra Brut: is the driest of the sparkling wines or the least sweet tasting.

  • Sparkling wines are best served cold at 45°.
  • Do not leave sparkling wines in the fridge for an overextended period of time because prolonged exposure to cold could make it taste flat.
  • Use tall and narrow glasses to make more bubbles.
  • You can determine the value of a sparkling wine by examining the size of the bubbles. The most expensive sparklers have the smallest bubbles, about 50 million bubbles per bottle!

Read more about the process of making sparkling wine.

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