Happy Bastille Day, Amigas! So much of our own American culture is inspired by France—food, wine, of course, and history. Bastille Day is a national holiday marking the anniversary of the fall, on July 14, 1789, of the Bastille in Paris. This day has come to symbolize France’s own journey to becoming a Republic after centuries of monarchic rule. So it’s perfectly fitting during Sparkling Wine Month that we celebrate this day with Champagne. Let’s review what makes this standard bearer of all sparkling wines so special!
What is Champagne?
Champagne is a sparkling wine made in the “Traditional Method” –a process developed in the Champagne region of France, where it’s referred to as the “Méthode Champenoise.” Considered the standard by which all other sparkling wines are judged, most champagnes are blends of varietals–Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier–as well as vintages. Located at the Northern-most limit of vine growing latitude—90 miles northeast of Paris—and where climate is marginal at best, winemakers must blend vintages to allow for consistency in quality and taste.
Why is it unique?
All sparkling wines are effervescent due to the absorption of carbon dioxide into the wine itself during fermentation. However, Champagne and other sparkling wines made in the Traditional Method, are the most highly-regarded and labor intensive to craft. The process involves creating a base wine, adding a specific amount of sugar and yeast, and initiating a second fermentation in the sealed bottle. Wines made in this fashion generally have more finesse, structure, and complexity than sparkling wines made in other methods. In addition, all traditional method sparklers require some aging of the wine on dead yeast cells called “lees,” which will impart aromas and flavors reminiscent of freshly baked bread.
How should I enjoy it?
Champagne is one of the most versatile wines in the world, pairing perfectly with anything from salty snacks like popcorn to the most haute-cuisine such as grilled lobster tails. The acidity, fine mousse, and yeasty characteristics compliment literally any fare, cleansing your palate with every sip and never overpowering your meal. Also, while it has been the tradition to enjoy Champagne in flutes, let’s learn to drink this most famous wine in standard, stemmed wine glasses. A wine of this caliber and legacy needs to be enjoyed every day and not just for special occasions.
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