• Wednesdays on the Vine: Behind the Bubbles {Buying Champagne 101}

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    Whether you’re hosting a fun-fancy dinner party, need a gift for a special occasion, or it’s just another mimosa-filled Sunday Funday, it can be challenging to really sparkle while making right choice without breaking the bank or losing the wine’s integrity.  To clear up some of that confusion I created a brief crash course of what you NEED to know about sparkling wine and how much money SHOULD be spent on the different styles.

    Sparkling Wine

    What’s all the bubble about?

    There is much more to be learned BUT, here’s the deal, sparkling wine can be made anywhere using 1 of the 4 methods. For the purpose of this post, I chose the two more common methods available in our wine market.  The two other ones not discussed this time around are, CO2 Injection: think SodaStream for wine…hmmm & Transfer Method: a shortcut version that combines the traditional and tank methods mentioned below.

     

    1. Traditional Method:

    This is the how Champagne*(regional distinction), Crémant, and Cava are made! This process requires multiple steps and longer ageing.  In turn, making it more expensive to make but with some tasty results.  The bubbles are smooth and“mousse-y”, very important traits to look for in terms of quality.  There are also these layers of yeasty, citrus-y, and fruity flavors along with a certain level of acidity which is better for food pairing vs. mixing in that fruit juice (see next section).

     

    How to pair traditional champagne with food:

    – Dishes like roasted chicken with veggies, creamy pastas, and chilled seafood salads
    – Pair certain Champagnes and Crémants with dessert depending on sugar levels in the wine.
    – Styles like Brut, Sec, Demi-Sec, Doux all do really well with pastries. Mmmm pastries. The image below shows those different levels and how the sugar measures up!

    champagne-sweetness-brut-demi-sec

    Now, when it comes to gifting, don’t get ahead of yourself.  Whether it’s a housewarming gift, for a wedding/engagement, to celebrate a new baby or new job, what have you, just make yourself a price point you want to stay within you and don’t be afraid to ask your local wine merchant.

    Average coinage:

    -Champagne: $30 – lots of $$$ (unless you go to Trader Joe’s, more on there selection in a future post…)
    the bottom line: best for gifting in the name of Champagne or for a fancy dinner.

     

    Crémant de “somewhere else besides the region of Champagne in France”= $16-$32
    the bottom line: LourdesOfTheVine top picks are from Crémant de Loire and Crémant d’Alsace for best value:taste ration. Also use as a gift option when your wallet is on empty…

     

    -Cava (“Champagne scale” production from various areas in Spain)= $8-$20
    the bottom line: use the cheaper ones for mixing and the pricier ones for gifting.

     

    And now for the other method of bubbly…

     

    2. Tank Method aka Charmant:

    This is one of the least expensive ways sparkling wine is made. That’s not to say it lacks quality, it just creates a different style and mostly, for less money.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some lemons out there but trust in your local wine shop where we look to carry quality over quantity…

     

    Sparkling wines made this way tend to have younger, fresher fruit flavors due to less time being aged in a bottle.  They can range from sweet to quite dry, so, be sure to ask questions about the one you find on the shelf! Here we may have hit the jackpot of the sparkling mixer, but that could still be drunk without the juice! 
    The Lini Line of Lambruscos

    The Lini Line of Lambruscos

    Average coinage:

    – Prosecco DOC from Veneto and Friuli, Italy: $8-$13 DOCG: $16-$18.
    the bottom line: the perfect one for mixing up those mimosas/manmosas and bellinis…

     

    – Lambrusco from Emilia-Romagna, Italy: $16-$20: Also available in white and rosé, such treats!
    the bottom line: a non-mixer with pizza or throw a little in sangria to make it fizzzzzzz

     

    – Sekt from Germany and Austria: $10-$$$
    the bottom line: hard to find…

     

    So, there ya go! Now you know the main differences between Champagne, Crémant, Prosecco, Cava, etc. The proof is in the bubbles, as they say, so just keep in mind that the major differences between the methods comes down to flavors and price. Remember, just because you may not know a ton about wine doesn’t mean you can’t create the conversation. Keep sampling, taking notes, and asking questions.  You’ll be a grape nut in no time!

     

    Buvez bien,
     
    Lourdes of the Vine

    Written by:

    Jen is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Hoboken Girl. She started the site to discover and share the wealth of things happening in Hudson County. Her roots in the area extend to her maternal grandparents, who owned two textile factories in Weehawken and North Bergen. When not planning the next Hoboken Girl event/volunteer project or editing her life away, she can usually be found shopping at local boutiques, eating an Insta-worthy meal, walking her French bulldog + rescue pup, or watching the latest murder doc on Netflix with her husband.


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