Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Big Birthday Extravaganza: Guide to Champagne

Champagne, the sparkling wine made only in the Champagne region of northeastern France, is different from all other sparkling wines in the world for three major reasons:
* A wine can only be labeled as "Champagne" if it is made in the Champagne region of France
* To be called Champagne, it must be made only from the pinot noir, pinot meunier, or chardonnay grapes that grow in that region
* True Champagne, as opposed to other sparkling wines, gets its bubbles by undergoing the fermentation process twice: once in barrels and again in bottles

*Types of Champagne*
Prestige Cuvée: grapes from a single vintage, requiring a longer aging process
Vintage: grapes grown in a single vintage year
Non-Vintage: a blend of two or more harvest years
Ultra Brut/Brut Natural/Brut Zéro: Very, very dry, containing less than 3 grams per liter of sugar
Brut: Very dry, containing less than 12 grams per liter of sugar
Extra Dry/Extra Sec: slightly sweeter, containing 12-20 grams per liter of sugar
Dry/Sec: Sweeter still, containing 17 to 35 grams per liter of sugar
Demi-Sec : Quite sweet, containing 35 to 50 grams per liter of sugar
Doux: Very sweet, containing over 50 gram per liter of sugar, commonly served with desserts

* Chill ideally to 40-45 °F {4.5-7 °C}, the lower temperature for parties and receptions where the room temperature is likely to rise
* Temperature determines the rate at which bubbles in champagne are released -- a bottle should not be opened at room temperature, as it will quickly froth up and go flat
* A bucket of ice and water (never just ice, as the water is essential for transferring temperatures) is still one of the best and quickest ways to chill a bottle of champagne
* You can chill champagne in a refrigerator for a couple of hours, but try not to leave it longer than a day, as the cork may stick or shrink
* Emergency chilling in the coldest part of a freezer for 15 minutes is fine

* Remove the foil, then gently untwist the wire and loosen the bottom of the cage
* Holding the base of the bottle with your other hand, twist both ends slowly in opposite directions, backwards and forwards
* As soon as you feel pressure forcing the cork out, try release the bottle from the cork while continuing the twisting operation ever more gently until the cork is released from the bottle with a sigh, not a bang
* Do not tilt the glass and pour gently down the inside, but top up each glass to between two-thirds and three-quarters full, and no more
* Do not chill the glasses ahead of time, either by filling them with ice cubes or crushed ice, as it will have a negative effect on the release of the bubbles and the bouquet of the champagne

* A flute or a tulip-shaped glass is ideal, but nearly any vessel will do
* Whatever glass shape used, the finer the rim the better
* If you have fine crystal, use it -- the irregularities in this elegant glass keep the bubbles alive longer

*Best Served With*
Blanc de blancs ["white of whites"] : made with Chardonnay grapes, and generally compliments lighter foods such as seafood and vegetables, or as a pre-dinner aperitif; it is considered a more delicate option

Blanc de noirs ["white of blacks"] : made from red Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes, with a deeper golden color, and is best paired with full-flavored foods, such as meat and cheese

Rosé ["pink" -- not to be confused with rosé wine] : made with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, [winemakers add a small amount of red wine during blending] and delicious paired with most foods

sources: wikipedia | bon appetit | this is glamorous

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