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Category Archives: Champagne


Wine Tips: How to Open a Bottle of Champagne (with Style)

Follow these 5 steps below to open your bottle with style, as a sommelier at a restaurant would.

1- Unwrap the top section of foil that protects the cork

champagne1

 2- Press your left thumb down on the top of the wire cage that holds the cork.  Remember to press down the top of the cage to avoid the cork from popping out prematurely. Unscrew the wire cage with your right hand, but keep your left thumb pressing down on the cage.

champagne2

3- Hold the bottle at a 45 degree angle. While keeping your left thumb pressed down on the wire cage, shift your right hand to grip the base of the bottle.

champagne3

4- With the cage still on for this whole step, rotate the base of the bottle with your right hand while your left thumb is still placed on the top of the wire cage. As you feel the cork of the bottle about to come out, slow the rotation down. Let the gas out of the bottle slowly. You should hear a nice ‘fizz’ sound.

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5- Pour into your glass and enjoy your first sip of bubbly!

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Tip: To reduce foam formation and make the pouring task easier, tilt the receiving glass at a 45 degree angle as you pour slowly into the glass. This gives a more controlled pour and makes you look like a pro sommelier.


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Can White Champagne Be Made From Red Grapes?

blc_de_noir

What? Red grapes making white champagne?

It seems counter-intuitive that a winemaker is able to make white champagne from red grapes.

Most red wines in France are made from red grapes, and likewise, white wines from white grapes. So can a winemaker produce a white champagne using only red grapes?

The answer is yes!

To understand why white champagne can be made from red grapes, we need to look at the winemaking process. The red color of wine comes from prolonged contact between red grape skin and the white juice after the grape is crushed. Therefore, if you remove the red grape skin shortly after the grapes are crushed, the color of the juice can still remain white.

Due to regulations, champagne producers are only allowed to make champagne with any combination of the 3 grapes of Pinot Noir (red), Pinot Meunier (red), and Chardonnay (white). They are also allowed to make 100% of the champagne from any one of those grapes.

If a white champagne is produced entirely from red grapes, it is given the term ‘blanc de noir’, or ‘white of black’. The black here refers to the red grape.

Another related term, ‘blanc de blancs’, is used to describe a white champagne that’s made entirely from white grapes (the Chardonnay grape).

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The Difference Between Champagne and Prosecco

champagne_prosecco

Prosecco is often called the champagne of Italy.

Both Champagne and prosecco are the main sparkling wines exported around the world from their respective countries, France and Italy.

When you go to a wine shop, you’ll find that the price of champagne a few times higher than the price of prosecco (in the same price range, France produces “Crémant” in Loire, Burgundy, Limoux…). (What does“Crémant” mean, article here)

You will also find a big difference in their flavors and aromas. This difference is largely caused by the types of grapes used, also the climates in which the grapes are grown and the method of vinification.

Champagne is made from a blend of the Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir grapes (Champagne Blanc de Noirs is made of Pinot Noir only, and Champagne Blanc de Blancs of Chardonnay only). On the other hand, prosecco is made from the Glera grape.

Both are drank during festivities or with meal, all year round.

If you have a chance, compare prosecco and champagne side-by-side and note the flavor differences.

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What is Non-Vintage Champagne?

bollingersclabel

Notice that you do not see a vintage year on this label.

Did you know that most of the champagnes out there are non-vintage champagnes?

This means that the bottle has a blend of champagne from different years. The opposite of this is vintage champagne, where all the champagne in the bottle is made entirely from a single year’s grapes.

Winemakers produced non-vintage champagne out of a desire to control the champagne’s quality. The quality of champagne grapes, like all other wine grapes, are heavily influenced by the weather. Too much rain and not enough sun negatively impacts the ripening of the grapes. If the current year’s grapes are not good enough to create a vintage champagne, winemakers blend champagne from different vintages, grapes and vineyards before bottling.

Vintage champagnes are only made a few times in a decade. This is because during a year with bad weather, the winemaker has to decide whether it wants to release a vintage champagne. As they are rare, vintage champagnes are generally more expensive than non-vintage ones.

It is hard to say whether vintage champagne is ‘better’ than non-vintage ones, since a non-vintage champagne blend is carefully selected from good grapes across different years. All one can say is the vintage champagnes are ‘special’ since they are made from all grapes in the same vintage.


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Do You Know The Sweetness Levels of Champagne?

sweetness

Sweetness level of Champagne

 

To get enough bubbles in a champagne it has to go through a second fermentation.

Winemakers complete the first fermentation in a tank where grape sugars are converted into wine, alcohol, and carbon dioxide. The second fermentation takes place in the bottle where extra sugar is added to create more carbonation in the champagne.

After the second fermentation, winemakers may still add a bit more sugar. Since there’s high acidity in champagne, the extra sugar is added to balance the acidity with sweetness.

The sweetness of the final product depends on how much sugar was added and how much residual sugar remains in the champagne bottle.

Champagne makers indicate the level of sweetness on wine labels. Here’s a guide to the different levels of sweetness in champagne, from driest to sweetest:

  – Extra-Brut or Brut Nature (0-6 grams of sugar per liter)

  – Brut (less than 15 grams of sugar per liter)

  – Extra-Dry (12-20 grams of sugar per liter)

  – Sec (17-35 grams of sugar per liter)

  – Demi-Sec (33-55 grams of sugar per liter)

  – Doux (more than 55 grams of sugar per liter)

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Wine Terms: Crémant

wineterms_cremant

A good value-for-money alternative to champagne.

 

Crémant (pronounced “cray-mawn”) is a term that’s used often in the world of French wine.

It describes a kind of French sparkling wine that’s made in designated areas in France. The term was originally used in the Champagne region to label less effervescent (or bubbly) champagnes.

Since 1985, the Champagne region agreed to stop using the term ‘Crémant’. It is now used to denote sparkling wines that are produced outside of Champagne. Crémant wines are given carbonation through a second fermentation in the bottle. Though, today they are still made less bubbly compared to champagne.

Officially, there are 7 designated Crémant regions in France. They are Crémant d’Alsace, Crémant de Bordeaux, Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant de Die, Crémant du Jura, Crémant de Limoux and Crémant de Loire.

Crémant d’Alsace is the biggest of all the 7 Crémant regions. It produces about half of all Crémant production in France.

In any wine shop, you will generally find that Crémant is priced lower than champagne. This is because the market demand and prestige is higher for champagne than it is for Crémant. Because of this, Crémant is good value for money.

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Wine Terms: Disgorgement

disgorgement

In champagne production, disgorgement is an important step.

Disgorgement is necessary when making champagne because after the first fermentation which turns grape sugar into alcohol, more yeast has to be added into the bottle for a second fermentation. This second fermentation is done to create more carbonation and bubbles in the champagne. After the second fermentation, the sparkling wine will be left to age for more than a year.

During this time, the champagne bottle will be tilted at a 45 degree angle downwards, and the dead yeast from after the second fermentation will fall to the tip of the bottle. The downward tilt accumulates the dead yeast at the neck of the bottle, which will make its subsequent removal much easier.

Disgorgement refers to the process of carefully removing the dead yeast and other sediments from the bottle. This leaves the champagne crystal clear and free of foreign flavors.

To start the disgorgement process, the winemaker will freeze sediment at the tip of the bottle by dipping the bottle into a freezing solution. The loose sediment is now frozen into a pellet. The bottle is then opened and the pressure from the bottle then automatically pushes the frozen pellet out. A dosage of sugar is then added depending on the sweetness level that the winemaker wants to achieve.The wine is re-corked again and readied for sale in the market.

Some champagnes have a ‘disgorgement date’ on the label . Since disgorgement is the last part of a sparkling wine’s production process, the disgorgement date signifies the end of production for the champagne.

The disgorgement year is different from the vintage year because the vintage year refers to the year when the wine grapes were harvested. The disgorgement year on the other hand indicates when the production process was complete.

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Does Champagne Have Aging Potential?

champagne_aging

A 200-year-old bottle of ‘aged’ Veuve Clicquot champagne found in a shipwreck.

 

A common question that we get is whether champagne can be aged.

We are happy to tell you that champagne can indeed be aged. It has high acidity and carbonation which help preserve it. That being said, ideally you should only age a bottle produced in a good vintage by a quality winemaker.

As you age the bottle, you will notice that its character will change over time. Through aging, it will turn to a deeper yellow color and lose some of its carbon dioxide. The loss of carbonation mellows down the champagne. Its flavors will become toastier and nuttier.

So when you taste an old champagne next time, be sure to appreciate its deeper color and mature aromas.


Wine novice or interested in discovering wines you do not have access to?  Every month receive two bottles of exclusive French wines at home with our sommelier’s tasting guide. Find out more

 

 

Wine Tips: How to Open a Bottle of Champagne (with Style)

 

What is Non-Vintage Champagne?

 

The French Cellar WineMag: click here to read more articles, terms, tips and advice!

 

www.TheFrenchCellar.sg Your Sommelier at Home

Two nice bottles of French wines delivered at your doorstep every month with our sommelier’s tasting guide.

3-star Michelin sommelier selection, 100% quality guarantee

 


History of Champagne

Did you know that Champagne, for the first time ever, was served in 1722 at Louis XV’s table for his coronation?

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