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how to act like a

Champagne expert


how to act like a

Champagne expert


Published by Arbon Publishing Pty Ltd. 45 Hume Street, Crows Nest NSW 2065, Australia PO Box 623, Crows Nest NSW 1585, Australia Telephone: +61 2 9437 0438 Facsimile: +61 2 9437 0288 Email: admin@arbonpublishing.com or visit www.arbonpublishing.com Managing Director Fritz Gubler Publisher Project Editor Book Design Cover Design Photo Research Proofreader Indexer

Chryl Perry Dannielle Viera Stan Lamond Stan Lamond Marie-Louise Taylor Marie-Louise Taylor Marie-Louise Taylor

This publication and arrangement Š Arbon Publishing Pty Ltd, 2013 Text Š Arbon Publishing Pty Ltd, 2013 Photography credits appear on page 111 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher. All images in this book have been reproduced with the knowledge of and prior consent of the copyright holder concerned, and no responsibility is accepted by authors, publisher, or printer for any infringement of copyright or otherwise, arising from the contents of this publication. Every effort has been made to ensure that the credits accurately comply with the information supplied. National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry Author: Viera, Dannielle, author. Title: How to act like a champagne expert / Dannielle Viera. ISBN: 9780987282040 (paperback) Subjects: Champagne (Wine) Wine and wine making. Wine tasting. Dewey Number: 641.2224 Printed and bound in China by 1010 Printing Limited


Contributors FRITZ GUBLER

Following a long and successful career in the hospitality industry, in 2008 Fritz Gubler published the first title in the Great, Grand & Famous series, Great, Grand & Famous Hotels, as a way of sharing his enthusiasm for the world’s finest and most illustrious hotels. Fritz is also certified as a sommelier in French wines, and with How to Act Like a Champagne Expert, he has created another book that is sure to enrich readers’ enjoyment of life’s luxuries. DANNIELLE VIERA

Dannielle Viera has been involved in the publishing industry for over 18 years, first as a copywriter, then as an editor, project manager, proofreader, and writer. She has worked on more than 40 printed books and numerous sample presentations, and has written about subjects as varied as the history of Christianity, Native American mythology, vampires, knights, and the death of Hollywood film stars.


Foreword Champagne is the perfect pairing of passion and art, and I have always thought that there was something magical about its delightful effervescence. At first it was the exquisite taste that lured me in, and whenever I heard the unique sound of a champagne cork popping from the bottle, I would always cry out “That’s the sound of happiness!” I soon began collecting each cap from the bottles I enjoyed, and would write the occasion and the date on the reverse side. My hunger for champagne knowledge grew to the point where I needed to find out everything I could about each of the Houses, including their history and what contributes to their particular style. This obsession with bubbly continues to the present day, as I attempt to master the art of understanding champagne. To have the wonderful book How to Act Like a Champagne Expert at my fingertips is ideal as I seek to discover the secrets of the champagne world, and it will be a permanent addition to my handbag. Christian Pol Roger once stated that “champagne cannot be drunk without intelligence,” and this fun and user-friendly guide to the world’s sparklers allows me to have that wisdom on hand at all times.

Kiron Barui Creator of the “Wearing Memories” champagne jewelry collection, and Australian host of Bubbly Talk Radio’s “The Champagne Sisters” program


Contents Introduction: The Story of Champagne A Brief History of Champagne 10 The Champagne Region and Terroir 12 Grape Varieties in Champagne 14 The MĂŠthode Champenoise 16

Selecting Your Champagne

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How to Read a Label 22 Sweet Versus Dry 24 Vintage and Nonvintage 26 Judging Bottle and Cork Health 28 Champagne Portions 30

Storing and Serving Champagne

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Advice for Storing Champagne 34 Serving Temperature 36 Glassware 38 Opening, Pouring, and Tasting 40 The History of Toasting 42

Tasting Champagne

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Tasting Stages 48 Champagne Styles 50 Tasting Terms 52 How to Host a Champagne Tasting 54

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Pairing Champagne with Food

60

A Perfect Match 62 Hors d’Oeuvres 64 Main Courses 68 Desserts 72

Champagne Cocktails and Punches

76

Classic 78 Kir Royale 79 Bellini 80 Mimosa 81 Black Velvet 82 Death in the Afternoon 83 Champagne Citrus Punch 84 Champagne Cranberry Punch 85

Other Sparkling Wines

86

Spanish Cava 88 Portuguese Espumante 89 Italian Sparkling Wines 90 German Sekt 92 Ęş 93 Hungarian Pezsgo Sparkling Wines of the United States 94 Sparkling Wines of the Antipodes 96 South African Sparkling Wines 98

Quick Reference

100

Aide-Memoire 102 Glossary 104 Index 108 Acknowledgments 111 Bibliography 111 Picture Credits 111


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Introduction

The Story of Champagne

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hampagne is the world’s most famous wine, an official trademark of France, and universally recognized as one of France’s greatest gifts to civilization. The birth and development of the effervescent icon of luxury we know and love today as “champagne” is a tale spanning many centuries.

A Brief History of Champagne Grapevines were first planted in Champagne during the Roman occupation of the region, and by the time French king Henry III was crowned in 1574, “champagne” (a term for all wines made in the Champagne region) had become France’s most expensive beverage. However, any evidence of bubbles in the liquid was considered undesirable and a sign of poor winemaking. Enter Dom Pierre Pérignon, whose ingenious improvements in viniculture produced a refined sparkling wine that soon impressed even King Louis XIV.

Come quickly, I am tasting the stars! —Dom Pérignon

In 1668, Dom Pérignon was sent to salvage the fortunes of Hautvilliers Abbey, which had stood for more than a thousand years watching over the Marne Valley, between Reims and Épernay. Thanks to the Holy Crusades, the diocese had gradually inherited the very best vineyards in Champagne, but by the time Dom Pérignon arrived at the abbey, it was a shadow of its former self. The Catholic Church’s instructions were clear—improve the vineyards and improve the champagne—in other words, get rid of the bubbles. Dom Pérignon took on the difficult task of restoring the vineyards to their former glory. He turned out to be an extremely skilled winemaker; not only did his work ensure the monastery’s material prosperity, but he also introduced many notable improvements in winemaking that are still practiced today. By judging just the right moment to bottle his wine in the most appropriate receptacle (the strongest available glass), and by using a more modern and


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Statue of Dom Pérignon at the Moët & Chandon Champagne House in Épernay, France.

effective seal on the bottle (a cork stopper instead of oil-soaked hemp), Dom Pérignon miraculously managed to trap the delicious sparkle found in quality champagne, as well as make clear white wines from red grapes. Champagne proper was born. In the centuries since then, advances in the winemaking process by numerous Champagne Houses—and the rapid journey of this beverage from noble tipple to everyday table—have seen a spectacular growth in global champagne sales.


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Introduction

Grape Varieties in Champagne Three main grape varieties are grown in the Champagne region: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. Four other varieties (Arbanne, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris)—known as “old grapes”—are also cultivated, but are only grown on a small scale. Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay share certain characteristics, such as early ripening and speed of maturation, and all produce freshly pressed grape juice (“must”) that is high in sugar content, with lifted bouquets of great finesse. PINOT NOIR

Despite being a difficult variety to grow due to its frost tenderness—hardier clones are most often cultivated—Pinot Noir represents about 37 percent of grape production. In its youth a Pinot Noir is fruity and mild; in maturity it lengthens the flavor in the mouth. Overall it provides champagne with structure and depth. White champagne that is made from only the clear juice of black Pinot Noir grapes (or a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) is referred to as Blanc de Noirs, while Rosé champagne is created when a small amount of red wine from Pinot Noir grapes is included. PINOT MEUNIER

As it is frost hardy—and a better fruit producer than Pinot Noir—Pinot Meunier accounts for some 38 percent of grape production. Pinot Meunier is celebrated for its fruitiness as well as its quick maturation, when it develops a rich bouquet that ranges from toast to caramel. However, it is also renowned for not ageing well; pure Pinot Meunier champagnes do not last longer than ten years. It is best used in a blend, where it softens the flavor of Pinot Noir and enlivens Chardonnay. CHARDONNAY

Considering that champagne is famously a light white wine, it is amazing that Chardonnay forms only 25 percent of grape production. A young Chardonnay often has a metallic flavor, with a bouquet reminiscent of a variety of different fruits—from apples and melons to lemons and limes— depending on the climate and soil in which the grapes were grown. As it matures—and it ages well—the youthful acidity of Chardonnay makes way for a rich, tropical aroma. A champagne made purely from Chardonnay grapes is known as a Blanc de Blancs.


A cluster of juicy Pinot Noir grapes, ready to be picked and pressed.


Selecting Your Champagne


There are many different aspects to consider when choosing champagne, from the style and type of wine (such as sweet versus dry, and vintage or nonvintage) to the size of the bottle. Selecting wisely can mean the difference between a successful occasion and one that falls flat.


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Selecting Your Champagne

How to Read a Label

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here are many items that appear on a champagne label, but the most important thing to look for is the word “Champagne,” which should be written in prominent letters, as well as “France” or “Produce of France”—this combination of terms guarantees that your bottle is genuine champagne. Other elements that are usually seen on the label include: FF The name of the producer or the brand (for example, “René Geoffroy,” “Bollinger”). FF The degree of dryness/sweetness (for example, “Brut,” “Extra Sec,” “Sec,” “Demi-Sec”). FF The village or town where the champagne was made (for example, “Cumières,” “Aÿ,” “Reims”). FF The level of alcohol, which is usually “12% by volume.” FF The size of the bottle (for example, “750 ml” [standard size], “1.5 L” [magnum]). FF If it is a vintage champagne, the year will be written somewhere on the front label. FF If the champagne is a particular type (for example, “Blanc de Blancs,” “Rosé”), this will be noted. FF If the champagne is made solely from Grand Cru or Premier Cru grapes, this will also usually be highlighted on the label. FF The importer’s name and location (for example, “red+white, Sydney”).

Champagne can only come from Champagne. —French saying


How to Read a Label

Decoding a busy champagne label is simple once you know what to look for.

Knowing the Producer Last, but not least, the label will tell you what type of producer made this bottle of champagne, as shown below: FF N-M négociant-manipulant—Champagne made by the large Champagne Houses, which may own some vineyards themselves but most importantly are authorized to buy in grapes. FF R-M recoltant-manipulant—Champagne made by small growers, who use their own grapes and market it themselves (they can buy in up to 5 percent of the grapes required). FF C-M cooperative-manipulant—Champagne that is produced by the cooperatives and sold either under their own label or that of the “growers.” FF R-C recoltant-cooperateur—Growers who remove their own bottles, bearing their own label, from the cooperative after it has made the champagne. FF M-A marque d’acheteur—Major buyers such as supermarkets or hotel chains, whose name features on the label even though the wine was made by a cooperative or Champagne House. FF N-D négociant-distributeur—Buyers who buy in finished champagne and then distribute it under their own name.

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Selecting Your Champagne

Judging Bottle and Cork Health

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t can be quite difficult to work out whether the unopened bottle in your hand contains flavorsome champagne or spoiled wine—fortunately, in most cases it will be the former rather than the latter—but there are a few telltale signs. Once you have opened the bottle, however, the taste of the champagne will instantly tell you whether the wine has been cooked, corked, or otherwise made unpalatable. Bottles that feel warm (rather than cool) to the touch should be avoided at all cost, as it is likely that they have been exposed to destructive high temperatures at some point—usually during delivery or when stacked in a poorly air-conditioned store. The warmed liquid may have expanded, dislodging the cork slightly; this can allow both some of the champagne to escape and harmful oxygen to enter the bottle. Always check that the cork is wedged firmly in the top of the bottleneck, and that the level of champagne within the bottle has not been noticeably reduced. Corked champagne occurs when a chemical released by a fungus within an infected cork infuses the liquid with a nasty flavor; the first sign is usually a musty or moldy aroma coming from the glass. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing whether a particular bottle of champagne has been tainted by a defective cork until you have poured the wine. If the champagne tastes bitter and fruitless, then it has almost certainly been affected by a contaminated cork. All you can do is either throw away the bottle or take it back to the store for a refund.

Flavor is the Key Champagne lovers will be fully aware of the variety of rich and powerful flavors imparted by quality champagnes, anything from chocolate to citrus. The taste of champagne is therefore a primary indicator of bottle and cork health. If, on taking your first mouthful, you encounter anything that resembles the tang of mothballs, mushrooms, wet cardboard, or burnt rubber—in fact, anything that is unexpected and unappetizing—then you can be sure that the bottle has been polluted in some way, and the champagne is unable to be consumed.


Judging Bottle and Cork Health

He who never takes risks never gets to drink champagne. —Russian proverb

With the wealth of choices on offer, champagne novices often wonder how to select the perfect bottle.

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Storing and Serving Champagne


Isn’t it funny how champagne always tastes wonderful in Champagne? Your champagne will always be clean, fresh, bubbly, and full of vigor if you follow the timehonored French traditions of storing it correctly, then serving it at the right temperature and in the most appropriate kind of glass.


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Storing and Serving Champagne

Advice for Storing Champagne

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t is important to remember that champagne is sensitive to ultraviolet light and heat, and therefore more susceptible than most wines to the shocks of transport and poor storage. There can be no doubt that exposure to high temperatures will increase the potential for oxidization in the bottle (making champagne age more quickly), and that huge daily temperature variations will kill champagne’s delicate aromas and flatten the mousse—so it is a bad idea to buy champagne off a well-lit wine supermarket shelf (unless you know they have a high stock rotation and a temperature-controlled storeroom), and it is an even worse idea to store your champagne for any length of time in the living room, bedroom, or kitchen of your home.

Keep It In the Dark Unlike other great wines, champagne does not improve with age because, having already spent some time in the cellars in Champagne before its release, it is primed and ready for drinking when you buy it. You can keep nonvintage champagne for another three or four years (six to ten years for vintage champagne), but the correct storage conditions are vitally important. Champagne may be kept for a year or two at a fairly constant temperature between 54ºF and 64ºF (12ºC and 18ºC); however, long-term storage really needs a cooler environment, ideally between 48ºF and 52ºF (9ºC and 11ºC). But this doesn’t mean you need to have a fancy wine refrigerator—what is most important is to store your champagne in a cool, dark area, free from drafts and vibrations and shielded from natural light, with approximately 70 to 90 percent humidity. It doesn’t really matter whether you store your champagne standing upright (in which case keep it in its box) or lying down. If you are keeping your champagne on a wine rack for any length of time, then make sure you keep the wrapping on to protect the wine from ultraviolet light. As a shortterm solution, you can store champagne in the refrigerator for a few days or weeks, but be warned that, after a few months, it may be infiltrated by some foreign food aromas.


Advice for Storing Champagne

Storing champagne in the refrigerator keeps it cool, but the wine may become tainted by food smells.

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Storing and Serving Champagne

Glassware

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wo very different styles of glass have been synonymous with champagne throughout history—the “flute” and the “coupe.” The flute—a tall, slender style of glass that dates back to Gallo-Roman times—was popularized as “the glass of fashion” at the court of Charles II in England, because it showcased the natural effervescence of champagne and also kept any deposit at the bottom (before champagnes were properly disgorged). Since World War II, the flute has evolved into a tulip shape. Served in this type of glass, champagne will retain its natural chill for longer while the aromas will be concentrated, the mousse sustained, and the contents of the glass presented to the tongue in a narrow, effervescent stream. The tulip flute is therefore the perfect instrument for appreciating your champagne.


Glassware

There are times in every woman’s life when the only thing that helps is a glass of champagne. —Bette Davis

Little Deuce Coupe The coupe—a broad, flat, short-stemmed, saucer-shaped glass—was created in 1663 by Venetian glassmakers at the Duke of Buckingham’s factory in Greenwich. Legend has it that the most famous version of the coupe was modeled on one of Madame de Pompadour’s breasts. This style of champagne glass was immortalized by the romantic stars of the silver screen. Unfortunately, the large surface of wine exposed to the air in a coupe means the aromas quickly dissipate, the bubbles go flat almost immediately, and the temptation to cradle this kind of glass in one’s hand heats up the champagne—so the coupe is not the right kind of glass for enjoying champagne. Although crystal flutes will enhance your appreciation of any champagne, surprisingly, ordinary wine glasses are good enough to do the job—they capture the vitally important bouquet, but they just can’t retain the mousse like a flute. Whichever glass you choose, note that the way you clean your glasses is almost as important as their shape. Always hand-wash your champagne glasses in warm water without detergent, because washing liquid residue affects both the bubbles and the bouquet. If the interior of the glass is too polished, there will be no infinitesimal particles on the inner surface of the glass for the carbon dioxide to stick to in order to create the bubbles in the first place.

Flutes come in a variety of shapes, but all are tall and thin.

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Tasting Champagne


Taking time to savor the unique aromas and flavors of individual champagnes is one of life’s greatest pleasures. If you want to host a memorable champagne tasting event, it is helpful to understand not only the physiology of tasting, but also the particular terms used to describe the essence of champagne.


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Tasting Champagne

Tasting Stages

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uality champagne takes your senses on a roller-coaster ride of flavors and aromas that may be flowery, fruity, spicy, toasty, or biscuity, depending on its grape composition, vineyard location, House style, and wine age. The way you distinguish these diverse flavors is dependent not only on the winemaker’s skill in producing the champagne, but also on your physical ability to differentiate miscellaneous characteristics within the champagne.

The Three Stages of Tasting The “attack” is the very first sensation you experience in the mouth. Is it sharp, smooth, sweet, dry, pleasant, or unpleasant? This is your immediate impression, and it only lasts two or three seconds at most. The “middle” is the taste you perceive immediately after the attack. Does the wine develop and fill your mouth with flavor? A good champagne will coat your mouth with rich and powerful flavors, but a poor one will taste watery and lack depth. The “finish” is what is left in the mouth when you swallow the champagne (or spit it out). Do the flavors and even the aromas linger on and on across your palate, or do they disappear immediately? A wine that lingers on your palate for ten seconds or more is considered to have a long finish, and this is a mark of quality. Winemakers use particular grapes to ensure that certain flavors and impressions occur during the tasting process. Chardonnay provides the first sensation in the mouth—it is fresh and lively. Pinot Noir develops slightly later but brings roundness and fullness, lasting a long time after you swallow. Pinot Meunier is neither as intense nor as long lasting as the other two grape varieties, but it provides the mid-palate link between Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.


Tasting Stages

The Physiology of Tasting The tongue is not very useful for tasting wine, because it is only capable of detecting sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and saltiness. Around 80 percent of what we experience as “taste” actually comes from our sense of smell. The olfactory organs located in the nasal cavity provide additional information that is important when the brain is interpreting intricate tastes. Retroolfaction occurs when the wine vapors in our mouth reach the nasal cavity via the back of the throat. The wine molecules stimulate olfactory receptors in the roof of the nasal cavity, and then nerve signals are sent directly to the brain, which identifies and responds to the smells. Consequently, in order for you to fully appreciate the complexity of flavors within a champagne, it is important that you not only take the time to “nose” (sniff) your wine, but also allow its aromas to escape in your mouth. Our perception of the taste of champagne can be affected by a number of things, such as physical alertness, past exposure to a variety of tastes, and cultural conditioning. It is also influenced by a range of illnesses that involve the nose and throat, as well as nerve damage and ageing. Taste is therefore an individual thing—not everyone will be able to discern each and every element of a champagne’s flavor.

Champagne, if you are seeking the truth, is better than a lie detector. It encourages a man to be expansive, even reckless, while lie detectors are only a challenge to tell lies successfully. —Graham Greene

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Pairing Champagne with Food

Desserts

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atching champagne with desserts can be a daunting prospect, as bubbly is renowned for leaving a sour taste in the mouth when it has been paired with overly sweet dishes. As a guideline, choose champagne that is slightly sweeter than the dessert you plan to serve—that way, even if the sugar within the dessert erodes some of the champagne’s sweetness, the bubbly still dances delightfully across the taste buds at the end of the meal. Slices of rich wedding cake are often served with the ever-popular Brut champagne, but this is one of the worst possible dessert pairings because the fondantcovered cake is much too sweet for this and most other types of champagne. When offering cake as dessert alongside champagne, select a style of cake that is not excessively sweet—for example, angel food cake, pound cake, or carrot cake—and serve it with a champagne that sits neatly on the sweeter end of the dosage scale, such as a luscious Demi-Sec. Desserts that feature eggy custard, rich cream, or vanillaflavored sauce—such as panna cotta, crème brûlée, and zabaglione—or those with a citrussy taste (think lemon tart, orange parfait, and key lime pie) suit Demi-Sec champagne. The creaminess of a mature Blanc de Blancs is the choice companion for a cheesecake, while almond cookies, hazelnut shortbreads, and any other light desserts that include nuts as the main ingredient partner well with a champagne that has strong nutty aromas. Rosé champagnes are magnificently matched with slightly spicy, fruit-filled desserts such as cinnamon-infused apple pie or a crunchy pear crumble. The distinctive fruity notes of young, nonvintage Rosés are heightened when the champagne is served with red-fruit desserts (for example, strawberry shortcake or raspberry tarts) or coffee-flavored tiramisu.


Desserts

In a perfect world, everyone would have a glass of champagne every evening. Heart-shaped cookies served alongside chilled champagne are an ideal Valentine’s Day dessert.

—Willie Gluckstern

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Pairing Champagne with Food

Cocoa Cravings Chocolate can be a difficult ingredient to match with champagne, as it is generally very sweet. But when you combine chocolate with something salty—wonderfully showcased in the traditional favorites chocolate-covered pretzels, as well as salted caramel and chocolate torte—the dessert stands up to the acidity of most champagnes. Another way around the problem is to serve a dessert featuring white chocolate as the prime ingredient, such as a fluffy mousse or a smooth fondue—the creaminess of the chocolate ensures that the champagne does not taste tart and unpalatable in comparison. The bitterness of dark chocolate makes it an ideal partner for Demi-Sec or Doux champagne, while dark chocolate truffles assert themselves admirably against the sharpness of Brut champagne. A pleasant pairing is chocolatecovered strawberries and sweet Rosé champagne, but this works equally well with any berries (particularly raspberries). A drier Rosé is heavenly beside a milk chocolate dessert imbued with a citrussy tang.

Champagne Desserts In the same way that adding champagne to a main course sauce will ensure that the dish perfectly matches the champagne served with it, you can create an abundance of appetizing desserts with a hint of the bubbly you plan to proffer with the dish. You can add champagne to almost any dessert you can imagine: pancakes, sundaes, puddings, cake pops … the only limits are your imagination and the type of event at which the dessert will be served. For a light dessert, try lemon sorbet or watermelon granita with a splash of champagne, or the unique texture of champagne and strawberry gelatin (jelly). Even the humble ice pop (ice block) can be lifted to a whole new level with the introduction of a little champagne into the fruit and water blend. You can vary the fruits within these desserts to match both the champagne being used in the recipe and the fruits that are in season at that particular time. Create a fruit compote using a Brut champagne in the sugar syrup that reflects the flavors of the chosen fruits (for example, raspberries, lemons, and apricots), or poach some pears in a sweet Rosé. You can also serve a fruit salad with a tantalizing twist—cut up a number of different fruits (for example, apples, oranges, and pears) into small pieces, mix them together in a bowl with a touch of floral or nutty honey, place portions of the dessert into individual stemmed dishes or tall glasses, and pour your choice of champagne over the fruit.


Enjoy champagne and orange gelatin (jelly) served with whipped cream and orange zest.


Champagne Cocktails and Punches


While drinking straight champagne is de rigueur for classy events such as wedding receptions and formal dinners, cocktails and punches made with a touch of champagne will lend a fun and festive air to any occasion. Just beware—these fruity little concoctions are both appetizing and addictive!


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Champagne Cocktails and Punches

Black Velvet

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he bartender at London’s Brooks’s gentlemen’s club first mixed this cocktail in 1861, not long after the death of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert. The evocative name relates to the fabric that adorned many of the Prince’s mourners. It is a visually interesting drink, as the bottom half of the champagne flute is filled with cooled stout beer (usually Guinness), while the top half of the glass contains sparkling wine (preferably champagne), poured in gently so it doesn’t muddy the stout—as the two alcoholic beverages have different densities, they create separate layers of brown and clear liquid in the glass.


Champagne Cocktails and Punches

Death in the Afternoon

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nvented by author Ernest Hemingway and included in a volume of celebrity recipes published in 1935, this cocktail takes its name from his famous book about the spectacle of bullfighting. In the great writer’s own words, to make the cocktail you should “Pour one jigger [one shot, or 1½ fl oz/45 ml] absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.” Absinthe was banned in many places because it was (falsely) believed to be a hallucinogen, so Pernod® was often substituted for the absinthe in this cocktail recipe.

Alas, I am dying beyond my means. —Oscar Wilde, as he sipped champagne on his deathbed

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Other Sparkling Wines


Although “champagne� can only come from Champagne, this is not the only region in the world that produces divine sparkling wines. Italy is well known for its asti, while Spain dazzles us with cava. New World countries such as the United States offer a range of distinctive bubblies that are worth a taste.


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Other Sparkling Wines

Spanish Cava

O

nce known as “Spanish champagne,” cava is a white (blanc) or pink (rosat) sparkling wine produced using the método tradicional, the Spanish version of the Champagne region’s méthode champenoise. Officially, eight wine regions within Spain are allowed to make cava, but some 95 percent of all cava comes from just one region, Catalonia. The word cava derives from the Latin cavea, meaning “cave,” which relates to the early use of caves instead of cellars to store the fermenting wine; the name was adopted in 1970 to set apart the Spanish sparkling wine from its more famous French counterpart. Today, the cork of each genuine bottle of cava features a four-pointed star printed on the base. Cava is made from three main grape varieties: full-bodied Xarel-lo, fruity Macabeo, and elegant Parellada. As with champagne, it is available in six different dosage levels—from driest to sweetest, these are Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Seco, Seco, Semi-Seco, and Dulce. Regardless of the type of cava you choose, it should be served at a chilly 46–48ºF (8–9ºC) to ensure the optimum flavors and aromas in the glass; these range from biscuit to citrus and green apple. Cavas do not keep well, and should therefore be consumed within two years of their release date.

With bread and wine you can walk your road. —Spanish proverb

Pink cava can be served with strawberries, oranges, and watermelon slices.


Other Sparkling Wines

Portuguese Espumante

A

lthough it is produced throughout Portugal, from the wet north to the arid south, sparkling wine can only be classed as a top-quality espumante if it has been made in the Bairrada wine region using the same time-honored method as champagne. These bottles are clearly stamped with the official designation VEQPRD, which stands for Vinho Espumante de Qualidade Produzido em Regi達o Determinada. Sparkling wines from the Alentejo, Ribatejo, Douro, Minho, or Estremadura regions are marked VFQPRD (Vinho Frisante de Qualidade Produzido em Regi達o Determinada), and those made anywhere in Portugal that have had gas injected into the wine are labeled VQPRD (Vinho de Qualidade Produzido em Regi達o Determinada). Espumosos, the most Espumante is a popular choice for both affordable (though perhaps least formal and informal parties in Portugal. appealing) Portuguese sparkling wine, is produced when carbon dioxide is added to wine. A number of different grapes are used to create espumantes, including the white (branco) Arinto, Bical, and Chardonnay, and the red (tinto) Baga. The level of sweetness varies from Bruto (very dry) and Seco (dry) to Meio seco (medium dry) and Doce (sweet). Espumantes are usually acidic, with fruity or earthy flavors, and can be paired with anything from dressed salads and baked vegetables to Leit達o da Bairrada, a traditional Portuguese dish comprising roasted suckling pig.

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Quick Reference


Need to know something about champagne in a hurry? The Aide-Memoire puts the facts and figures at your fingertips, while the glossary explains champagne terms and tasting descriptions at a glance. If you want to find out more, the index will guide you to the right place in the book.


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Quick Reference

Glossary aftertaste The taste left on the palate after the champagne has been swallowed; also known as finish.

appellation Literally, “a name”; usually refers to an official geographically based location.

assemblage (Fr.) A blend of base wines that creates the final cuvée. balance The harmonious relationship between alcohol, acids, tannins, fruits, and other natural elements.

base wines The fully fermented wines that, when blended together, form the basis of a sparkling wine cuvée.

biodynamic Wines produced with grapes grown without the aid of chemical or synthetic fertilizers, and vinified with natural yeast and the minimum of filtration and chaptalization.

biscuity A delightful bouquet similar to yeast or dough found most often in mature Pinot blends (champagnes made from Chardonnay tend to have a toasty aroma).

bite A strong flavor within a particular champagne, which is often desirable but can be unpalatable.

bitterness A bitter flavor can indicate a poor-quality champagne, or a champagne that takes some time to develop a rich character.

body The combination of fruit extract and alcoholic strength that creates a feeling of weight in the mouth.

Brut (Fr.) Literally “raw” or bone dry, but in practice merely dry (0–12 grams/liter residual sugar).

buttery Caused by the compound diacetyl, a by-product of fermentation, it is not a desirable flavor in champagne.

caramel A stronger version of buttery, often produced when diacetyl meets oak. champagne (Fr.) A sparkling wine produced in the delimited area of the same name in northern France.

Champenois (Fr.) The people of the Champagne region. chaptalization Sugar added to grape must to raise a wine’s alcoholic potential. Named for French chemist Jean-Antoine Chaptal.


Glossary

charmat method Also known as metodo Italiano, this is the process of making sparkling wine whereby the second fermentation is undertaken in vats rather than in bottles.

chef de caves (Fr.) Literally the “cellarmaster,” but also the winemaker in the Champagne region.

chocolaty This flavor most often forms part of a well-aged Chardonnay cuvée. citrussy A more complex flavor or aroma than simple lemon. clarification The removal of any suspended matter that may cloud wine or grape juice.

Comité interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne, Le (CIVC) (Fr.) The semi-governmental interprofessional body that regulates all aspects of the champagne industry.

creamy A taste formed in part from a fine effervescence, a lingering Chardonnay flavor, and a reduced malolactic influence.

crisp A refreshing champagne with an acidic aftertaste.

cru (Fr.) Literally “growth”; it relates to a specific vineyard or group of vineyards. cuve (Fr.) A vat. cuvée (Fr.) Originally the wine of one cuve (vat), this term now refers to a precise blend or specific product that could well be blended from several vats.

dégorgement (Fr.) The act of opening a bottle to remove the sediment after second fermentation.

dosage (Fr.) A sugar and old wine blend added to sparkling wine after dégorgement, prior to shipping, via the liqueur d’expédition, the amount of which is controlled by the terminology used on the label (for example, Extra Brut, Brut, Sec, Demi-Sec).

dry A champagne that is not sweet to the taste. Extra Brut (Fr.) Literally “extra raw” and actually bone dry, this category incorporates all the nondosage marketing terms such as Brut Absolut, Brut Integral, Brut Non-Dosage, and Brut Zéro, plus the lower end of the Brut spectrum (0–6 grams/liter residual sugar).

Extra Sec (Fr.) Literally “extra dry,” but merely dry in most cases (12–17 grams/ liter residual sugar).

fermentation The biochemical process by which enzymes secreted by yeast cells convert sugar molecules into almost equal parts alcohol and carbonic gas.

105


Everything you need to know about champagne and other sparkling wines in one compact volume

The word “champagne” conjures up images of bon vivants sipping

liquid gold from slender flute glasses. But you don’t have to be a wine connoisseur to appreciate and enjoy this remarkable beverage. How to Act Like a Champagne Expert is packed with information and advice on every aspect of champagne, from selecting and tasting bubbly to pairing it with food. This book also travels the world, dipping into a wealth of sparkling wines including cava and sekt.

How to Act Like a Champagne Expert is a must for those hoping to host a dazzling dinner party or champagne tasting, as well as anyone looking for a luscious libation. The book includes a helpful aide-memoire with the most salient details about this tantalizing tipple, plus a complete glossary of champagne-related terms. With this effervescent guide by your side, you can choose and use champagne and other sparkling wines for every occasion.

Bubbly Facts FF Sparkling champagne was originally criticized as

an example of poor winemaking. FF The largest champagne bottle is called a Melchizedek,

with a capacity of 30 liters. FF There are more than 21 million bubbles in a glass

of champagne. FF Allegedly, the shape of the coupe (a saucerlike

champagne glass) was modeled on one of Madame de Pompadour’s breasts.

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