There’s something about bubbles that can turn any moment into a festive one. And we all owe a big thank you to the French for this great legacy. Thanks to them, New Year’s eve and Valentine’s day have become the most bubbly days of the year.
Gladly, we’re also entering one of the biggest seasons for champagne consumption, the wedding time of year. Yes, it starts as early as April with bachelor(ette) partys.
If you enjoy bubbly too but feel like you still have a lot to learn, you’ll have a more enjoyable experience with the cheat sheet and facts below.
Champagne is the most expansive of all sparkling wines and is always produced in the Champagne region of France. It is also made exclusively of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.
How can you recognize Champagne? Take a look at the bottle. If you don’t see the word Champagne, it’s not Champagne.
In that case, refer to it as sparkling wine, or use their own names—Cava, Prosecco, Crémant, Moscato d’Asti and so on. Otherwise, you may disappoint your guests or look like a fool.
You may notice the terms Blanc de Blancs or Blanc de Noirs on a Champagne bottle. A Blanc de Blancs is solely made with Chardonnay, and a Blanc de Noirs is produced only with black grapes—Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier.
As for rosé sparkling wine, it can be made two ways. It’s either produced by adding a small proportion of red wine to the golden blend (rosé d’assemblage), or by letting the juice remain in contact with the skin of the grapes for a short time during fermentation (rosé de saignée).
Don’t be fooled by the color. Rosé does not mean sweeter. Many rosé sparkling wines are brut, meaning they have less than 12g/l of residual sugar.
Here are the world’s 10 biggest Champagne brands, ranked according to global volume sales in 2016.
1. Moët & Chandon (CA$ 64) 2. Veuve Clicquot (CA$ 69.25) 3. Nicolas Feuillatte (CA$ 48.50) 4. G.H. Mumm (CA$ 59.75) 5. Laurent-Perrier (CA$ 63.25) 6. Taittinger (CA$ 59.75) 7. Pommery (CA$ 63.25) 8. Piper-Heidsieck (CA$ 58) 9. Lanson (CA$ 65) 10. Canard-Duchêne (CA$ 48)*
Yes, Champagne is the most famous of sparkling wines and its volume sales grew in many countries such as Canada last year—by 12%.
However, Champagne sales dropped by 2% globally to 306 million bottles, as reported by Decanter.com. Meanwhile, sales of Prosecco are expected to surpass 412 million bottles by 2020, as stated in The Drinks Business‘ article.
There are plenty of good sparkling wines nowadays. The best way to figure out which ones you like the most is to taste different bubbles of different styles, brands and sweetness levels.
Here are some of my favourite sparkling wines under CA$ 30:
1. Michele Chiarlo Nivole (CA$ 18.80)*
Even though it doesn’t pop, this sweet sparkling wine with flavors of peach and apricot is perfect with dessert. You can also get the 350ml bottle which sells for CA$ 11.25.
2. Louis Bouillot Perle d’Aurore (CA$ 22.55)*
With notes of red berry flavours, this Crémant de Bourgogne rosé is of great quality. And at that price, it’s a no brainer. I personally enjoy it as an aperitif.
3. Bernhard & Reibel Crémant d’Alsace (CA$ 25.75)*
I just love French products. Not only is this bottle’s design awesome, but its content is surprisingly good. As with all wines from Bernhard & Reibel, it’s made biodynamically.
4. Mumm Prestige Brut (CA$ 29.60)*
Founded by G.H Mumm winemaker Guy Devaux, Mumm Napa follows traditional wine making techniques of its French heritage. This is their signature sparkling wine, a classic.
5. Segura Viudas Hererad Reserva (CA$ 30.25)*
This Cava was suggested to me by my go-to sommelier at SAQ Atwater and it is a great product. I suggest you try the Segura Viudas Cava Reserva Brut at CA$ 14.05 first.
Your guests are about to arrive so you open your sparkling wine and realize it doesn’t taste good. Either you wait and ask for a second opinion, or you make cocktails. Some recipes are quite effortless:
If you’re looking for a more unique taste, add 1/2 oz Grand Marnier or Triple Sec in your Mimosa. For a Kir Imperial, use Chambord instead of Crème de cassis. And if you have a little more time, make a Bellini. You can use strawberries or raspberries instead of peaches.
Enjoy! And please don’t become a Champagne snob.
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