We hear the distinctive pop and it signals the celebration about to begin. Our eyes brighten as we watch the sparkling wine being slowly poured into a slender flute. No other wine is as closely identified with those important occasions that add meaning and definition in our lives than Champagne… New Years, Birthdays, Anniversaries, Valentines Day & etc. At these key junctions during the year, Champagne makes a command performance
But there are far more reasons to enjoy Champagne and other sparkling wines than celebrating the major milestones in any given calendar year. For one, it is the most ideal accompaniment for any dish being served… and at any time of the day! From eggs benedict in the morning, to a chilled calamari salad for lunch, as an aperitif before dinner, to chicken Kiev at dinner, to poached pears for dessert. Clearly sparkling wine is our most flexible of wines… like pearls, it goes with everything.
Much credit for this wine is laid at the feet of the 17th Century monk, Dom Perignon. While not its “inventor”, he certainly is the person responsible for selecting the ideal grape varietals and creating the blending techniques that are still in use today.
Strictly speaking, only sparkling wine produced with grapes grown in the delimited Champagne zone is entitled to the name Champagne. The hills and valleys of the Marne near the towns of Reims and Epernay are responsible for all the world’s Champagne. The chalk soils of Champagne not only gives their wine its unique character, it also provides the perfect home for aging these wines in the prodigious underground caves of the historic Champagne houses.
The art of Champagne lies in the blend. Pinot Noir from vineyards in the North slope of the Montagne de Reims responsible for the “headiness” of the wine, Pinot Meunier from the Vallee de la Marne adds bouquet and roundness and Chardonnay from the East facing slopes of Epernay contributes finesse and delicacy. The resulting wine can not be surpassed for its delightful freshness, nor for the sheer joy in its consumption.
And there is far more to sparkling wine than Champagne itself. Different countries, different grapes; but made in the same method with the second fermentation in the bottle giving the wine its precious bubbles. Germany has its Sekt, and Spain has its Cava; but the sparkling wine that is unmatched in its popularity falls to Italy’s Prosecco. Both the name of the grape varietal used and the name of the wine, it can be made in a lightly bubbled frizzante style, or in a classic methode champenoise. And in a country that boasts numerous regional cuisines and associated wines, Prosecco comes as close to being the “national beverage” of Italy as any. It is safe to say that more Prosecco is consumed in Italy than still water in this country!
Prosecco is enjoyed at any time of the day, in any type of glass, cup or mug. No formality here. The softer fruit flavour of Prosecco, soft finish and more modest price, makes this wine a natural for gatherings.
So, “pop the cork”, be it tete du cuvee Champagne, a tasty Cava or a friendly Prosecco… and take a page from Italy, don’t save it for launching a battle ship, don’t reserve for the nine days a year when opening a bottle is de rigeur… after all – we live 365 days a year! Why not celebrate living!