Champagne is Heart Song in a Glass

14 Nov

            This week I was lucky enough to study and taste an array of sparkling wines.  I’ve loved Champagne since I enjoyed my first sip from a favorite aunt’s glass.  I simply love the bubbles and its delicately toasty aroma.  To me, opening a bottle of Champagne can chase storms clouds away and make any day a time of celebration.  And while I am not skilled enough to identify it blindly, I have an even stronger affinity for pink Champagne.  I love the color and I have flashbacks to Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember every time I  pick up a glass.  To me, Champagne is a fairy tale, a promise to live happily ever after.  The rational side of my brain knows I’m daft, but I can still revel in the feelings invoked by the illusion.  In the big scheme of things, the momentary escape from reality that I experience when I sip Champagne is a true bargain vacation.  Champagne is heart song in a glass.

            At the risk of tainting the magic, I learned a lot about what makes Champagne so special in my ISG sommelier class this week.

  • Champagne is made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier grapes.
  • While to be Champagne, the wine must be produced in the French wine region of Champagne, it is available in several styles: Non-vintage Brut, Vintage, Blanc de blancs (all Chardonnay), Blanc de noirs (all black grapes), Rose (usually produced by blending red and white wine bases), Brut (dry), Demi-Sec (sweet) and Cuvee de Prestige (the elite wine of a Champagne house such as Louis Roederer Cristal).
  • Champagne is fermented twice.  The second fermentation is in the bottle, infusing the wine with carbon dioxide.
  • Following the second fermentation, the wine ages on the yeast cells, or lees, in the bottle.  This gives Champagne its “toasty” aroma.
  • After ageing, bottles must be individually manipulated, over a period of days or weeks, depending on the method, to draw the lees into the neck so they can be ejected from the bottle.

It’s an involved process, capturing starlight in a bottle, so cheers to the Benedictine monk Dom Perignon for a wine that’s like “tasting stars”.  Tchin-tchin!


One Response to “Champagne is Heart Song in a Glass”

  1. Samantha November 14, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    Oh Pam you are a girl after my own heart! I love pink too! I went to a champagne tastign recently if you want to see?

    I am sure going to miss the prevalence and low prices of champagne when I move back to Canada this month. It’s a shame we can’t get the same wonderful bottles across the pond. 😦


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