What is it about sparkling wine that makes sharing a bottle the perfect way to seal a contract, celebrate a win or toast a bride and groom? It's the bubbles, of course!
Try these winning Canadian sparklers -- gold medallists all: Château des Charmes Sec and Hillebrand Estates Trius Brut from Ontario or Stellar Jay Brut and Summerhill Cipes Brut from British Columbia.
How to serve Champagne and sparkling wine
• Use clear glasses rather than cut or tinted ones; part of the pleasure is watching the bubbles cavort.
• Use tall, slender glasses known as flutes. The bottom of each bowl should end in a point; the rim should be narrower than the bowl. This shape concentrates the aromas and, since there's less wine surface exposed to the air, it helps capture and conserve the effervescence.
• Use spotless glasses with no trace of soap (nothing takes the oomph out of bubbles faster). Give them a quick rinse in a mild 1:10 solution of vinegar and water, then dry them with a clean, lint-free linen towel.
• Place the bottle in an ice bucket, add ice and water to just below the shoulders and chill for only half an hour. If the wine is too cold, the cork is hard to remove and the bubbles are subdued; too warm,the cork may explode.
Which sparkling wine?
Your budget will determine which sparkling wine you choose. By definition, the name Champagne can only be used for sparkling wines produced in a very small Champagne region around Reims and Épernay in Northern France.
French Champagne is made from a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier grapes, and most from a blend of grapes from different years. Other countries, including Canada, make blended sparkling wines using traditional methods.
• Méthode champenoise: The secondary fermentation of wine take place in the bottle rather than in the tanks. Bottles are inverted at an angle and regularly rotated (remuage) to allow sediment to settle in the neck. After a set time, this sediment plug must be removed by freezing the bottle neck in brine, then quickly removing the cork and allowing the pressure built up in the bottle to force out the sediment plug. After addi a small amount of liquer l'expédition, called dosage, which may include sugar, the bottle are recorked and left to age.
• Méthode charmat: Wines are fermented in tanks, then bottled under pressure, a method faster and less expensive than méthode champenoise.
• Vintage: Contains wine harvested from one exceptional growing year only and is a rare occurrence.Page 1 of 2 -- Find more Champagne terms and pouring tips on page 2
• Blanc de blancs: Only the juice of white grapes have been used.
• Blanc de noirs: Only the juice of red grapes have been used.
• Crémant: A delicately flavoured champagne that is less effervescent than most.
• Rosé: A blend of red and white wines; fruiter and slightly sweeter than other varieties.
The scale of sweetness by the French definition is: brut (very dry), extra dry (dry), sec (slightly sweet), demi-sec (quite sweet), and doux (very sweet).
Champagne serving tips
To store: Rest on its side in cellar or on shelf for short periods. Storage in refrigerator is not recommended (except to chill).
To chill: Place in bucket of ice water for 20 to 30 minutes or in refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours. Desired serving temperature for champagne is 45F (7C).
To open: Remove enough foil to get hold of and remove wire within. Hold bottle at 45-degree angle, directed away from yourself or others. Place towel around neck of bottle where you are holding it. Turn bottle gently, not the cork. Cork should not pop loudly; it should pop softly with a gentle release of air.
To pour: Use tall, narrow flutes or tulip glasses rather than the broad shallow coupes previously used. Tilt glass, then pour wine slowly down side of glass to retain the most bubbles.
To hold: Always hold glass by stem in order to avoid warming.
Photographed step-by-step opening guide:
Serve Champagne and sparkling wine chilled (about 7 C). To chill wine quickly, place in a bucket with equal parts ice and cold water.
Next step: Remove foil and cage>>
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