A Month of Harvest Part IV: Champagne & Sparkling

Ladies. Gentlemen. Children of all ages as long as you're over 21. The wait is over. The greatest holiday October has to offer has arrived! And for you pumpkin-spiced Hocus Pocus lovers out there, I'm sorry to say that it's not Halloween. October 28th is Global Champagne Day.

Behind the bar, after a week-long hiatus, Justin will be pouring some Champagne and sparkling wine for our Tasting this week! What a hell of an October we've been having for our harvest-themed Tastings this month. Bordeaux kicked it off the first week, followed by Burgundy. Last week, while Justin was in Napa Valley, we kicked off an Instagram Giveaway (which there's still time to get in on!). And now this week, nothing but sparkling wine. Are we spoiled? Yes. But do we deserve it? Also Yes.

As for the contest, all you need do is post a picture of one (or several) of your favorite bottles you got in the Shop to your Instagram, or even a picture of the Shop itself (feel free to take selfies!). It needs to be a Post and not a Story (though feel free to put those up too). The most important part is that you tag The Wine Shop of Charleston in the photo. Once tagged, we'll be able to see that you tagged us and we'll keep track of how many Likes the photo gets. The photo that has the most Likes by October 31st wins. In addition to bragging rights, the winner will receive a bottle of Champagne Taittinger Brut Reserve from us! (And yes, we'll help out and and Like every photo as well!)

Join us this Wednesday, the 26th, from 5 - 7 for a journey into Sparkling Wine in honor of Global Champagne Day. But to help us all out, here's a Cliffs Notes cheat sheet on Sparkling Wine from around the globe.

Champagne

90 miles north of Paris, close to the 49th Parallel, is a wine region at the northernmost extreme (wine is only grown between the 30th and 50th Parallel). The wines of this prestigious place are nothing short of exquisite. This region is called Champagne and the best sparkling wine on the planet is made here. There isn't a single thing we can say about Champagne that can encapsulate it as perfectly as a certain 16th Century Benedictine monk named Dom Pierre Pérignon when he said, "Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!" when "discovering" Champagne for the first time.

The process in which Champagne is made is called Méthode Ancestrale, more commonly known today as Méthode Champenoise or Méthode Traditionnelle.

Méthode Champenoise

Making Champagne and other sparkling wines is labor intensive. These fine wines go even a step further by undergoing a secondary fermentation, where the millions of bubbles are created, in the bottle rather than in a vat or cask.

We have some really bad news for all those folks who "hate" Chardonnay but love Champagne. If you're easily offended or of the faint of heart you may want to skip the next sentence. The only permissible grapes allowed in the making of Champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Worse yet, Chardonnay hater, if you drink anything with Blanc de Blancs on the label, you're really in trouble!

Blanc de Blancs

Literally White of White. This is when sparkling wine is made with 100% Chardonnay.

Blanc de Noirs

Literally White of Black. This is when sparkling wine is made from 100% Pinot Noir.

Crémant

Historically, when a Champagne was made with about half of the usual effervescence it would be called a Crémant, or a creaming wine. No longer legally allowed to use that term when describing Champagne of any kind (legally not permitted since 1994), a Crémant is sparkling wine made anywhere in France, using Méthode Champenoise, that isn't made in the Champagne region.

Vins Mousseaux

Sparkling wine made in France not in the Champagne region. But unlike Crémant, Vins Mousseaux is not made in Méthode Champenoise either.

Cava

Sparkling wine from Spain made in Méthode Champenoise, dominantly in the Penedès, southwest of Barcelona.

Prosecco

Italy's most well-known and widely produced sparkling wine. Unlike Champagne, Cava, Franciacorta (we'll get to that in a second) and Crémant, Prosecco is not made in Méthode Champenoise but rather in the Charmat, or tank, method. The Charmat process is when the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in pressurized tanks rather than in a bottle. This makes the bubbles not as fine nor as many as when the wine undergoes Méthode Champenoise. Also, historically, the grape varietal in Prosecco was called Prosecco. That changed very recently, in 2009, to help distinguish more quality in Prosecco. The name of the grape varietal now is Glera.

Franciacorta

The premiere expression of sparkling wine in Italy. Made only in Lombardy, Franciacorta is made in the traditional Champagne method, Méthode Champenoise, and is produced from Chardonnay and Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir), just like in Champage, and Pinot Bianco (Pinot Blanc).

Spumante

Italian for sparkling wine.

Frizzante

Italian for slightly fizzy, but not quite sparkling.

Sekt

Sekt is the term for all sparkling wine in Germany. Truly great Sekt is made in Méthode Champenoise. However, it can also be mass produced in bulk when the secondary fermentation occurs in a large vat or pressurized tank and is accessible at low prices. Either way, both ways to make it are called Sekt.

Finally, we make sparkling wine here in the United States as well, some of it Méthode Champenoise and some of it not. However, and in our opinion, to our detriment, we don't have any fancy word for it. Sparkling Wine in the United States is... Sparkling Wine. But don't think this lackluster term means that we don't have any truly great expressions of it here in the US. Just ask any United States President since Nixon. Schramsberg Blanc De Blancs Brut was used for President Nixon’s 1972 “Toast to Peace” with China’s Premier Zhou Enlai. Produced in the Napa Valley, Schramsberg’s sparkling wines have been served at official State functions by every U.S. Presidential administration since.

Closing out the month on a high note, we'll be enjoying some really cool expressions of Sparkling Wine. We've got an amphora aged Frapatto, a Crémant de Loire, a Crémant de Bourgogne, and, oh yes, Champagne proper.

We'll see you there!
Salud,

The Wine Shop Team


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.