Thursday 21 November 2019

Romance sparkles

Sparkling wine is the ultimate drink of celebration
Sparkling wine is the ultimate drink of celebration

Liam Campbell

SPARKLING wine is the ultimate celebration drink. A flute shaped glass transformed into a wand of tiny bubbles to cast its magic on the mood and merriment.

French Champagne has been the traditional choice of fizz at weddings, followed in recent years by a tango with Spain's Cava and New World sparkling wines and, lately, a lingering waltz with Italian Prosecco.

However, for those planning a wedding, so much choice of bubbly wines can be a little bewildering. It helps to understand the two main factors that influence both taste and price: the grape varietals used and the winery's method of putting the bubble into the bottle.

THE GRAPES

Each grape varietal, like nationalities, has its own identifiable character that it imparts to a wine. For instance, the classic marriage of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Champagne is copied globally.

The feminine delicate and green apple-like fruit of the Chardonnay is complemented by the savoury richness and meaty masculinity of the Pinot Noir.

In Spain, Paralleda, Macabeo and Xarel-lo are blended to produce wines with softer acidity and riper red apple flavours. Chardonnay is sometimes added to give an international accent.

Meanwhile, Italy's Alpine Prosecco, made from the local Glera grape, produces feminine, floral and delicately pear and peach-like fruity wines for easy, uncomplicated enjoyment.

For the price conscious, the fully sparkling/Spumante version of Prosecco has a lower cost alternative.

Prosecco Frizzante, meaning gently fizzy, attracts less tax but requires a corkscrew to open.

THE METHODS

The Traditional Method/Méthod Traditionelle, was pioneered in the Champagne region in the 1670s and is used throughout France ("Crémant de" precedes the region's name) and internationally (eg Spain's Cava).

A second alcoholic fermentation is initiated in the very bottle you serve by adding sugar and yeast. The natural carbon dioxide gas generated during fermentation is trapped in the sealed bottle and dissolved in the wine.

Afterwards, the wines are aged on the lees (the spent yeast) to give a biscuity/toasty (autolytic) character.

The sticky lees are removed from the aged wine in a lengthy, complex and very expensive process. To make the pink versions of sparkling wines a little red wine is added.

The Tank Method is a much cheaper process for removing the lees and Prosecco is made sparkling using this method.

It is also used for Italy's original sweet/Dulce sparkling, Asti Spumante from the highly aromatic Muscat varietal perfumed with peach, grape and rose. Especially light in alcohol at 7pc it is the best sparkling match with wedding cake.

The Transfer Method is widely used in the New World's Australia, New Zealand, California and South Africa, and often with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

The label states, "Bottle Fermented" and it is a clever combination of both Traditional and Tank methods.

Brut is an unique term used in sparkling wines to describe the ultra-driest style and is followed by sec/dry and demi-sec/medium.

WHAT IS CORKAGE?

If the client is supplying their own wine, corkage is the term for the charge by the obliging venue to store, chill and serve the wine, glasses, breakages, etc. Costs vary widely per bottle. Research thoroughly.

Ultimately, the best buzz at a wedding radiates from the happy couple. Sparkle.

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