Behind The Bubbles- The Truth on Sparkling Wine
Just hearing the word Champagne brings up images of popping corks with grand celebrations and parties like no other. Did you know that these famous bubbles were actually an accident? At the age of 29, monk Dom Perignon was appointed manager of Champagne's Abbey at Hautvillers. Realizing that the financial health and reputation of the monastery was tied to its vineyards, the monk set to work taking care of the beaten-down vines and reconstructing the cellar. In almost no time, the Hautvillers vineyard was up and running.
Nowadays, many people credit the famous monk with inventing champagne by forcing bubbles into sweet wine. That's a myth, though!! In Dom Perignon's day, bubbles in wine were actually considered to be a serious wine FLAW! He spent more time trying to prevent them from happening. While he never succeeded on that front, he did succeed in making bubbly wine a whole lot better. For starters, he was the first winemaker in Champagne to use corks, which kept the carbon dioxide from escaping, thus creating the bubbles. Champagne made still wine but the regions cooler temperatures would halt fermentation while there were still leftover yeast and sugar. When temperatures warmed up secondary fermentation occurred in whatever vessel the wine was stored in, producing more alcohol and bubbles. Eventually people began developing a taste for bubbles and the practice of making the sparkling was perfected. Dom also used a process of gently pressing his grapes, so that it eliminated the dark color that came from the skins. This produced a clearer, less murky looking wine. He even blended his grapes to make a light white wine, which suited the fizziness far better than the heavy red. Legend has it that upon first tasting his vastly improved beverage, Dom exclaimed the now famous quote "Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!"
Luckily enough I’ve had the experience of visiting the cellars of Dom Perignon and Moët & Chandon last summer through school. In the heart of beautiful Epernay, (almost like a playground for sparkling lovers) I was able to taste some truly gorgeous champagnes, and learn more about the rich history of champagne making in the process. The chalk limestone crayéres (caves) of the Moet champagne house stretch for about 17 miles. The area is vast and the perfect place for millions of bottles of champagne to age quietly for years.
In order to understand our American sparkling wines, you need to understand the basics of Champagne which serves as the model for most new world sparkling wines. An important fact: ONLY wines that originate from Champagne, France can officially use the term Champagne. All other wines with bubbles are simply called sparkling wines.
The three most common grapes that are used to make Champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Most American sparklers concentrate on making wines from the first two. Chardonnay adds elegance; Pinot Noir adds power and fruitiness. Once the still wines are blended a secondary fermentation is induced by the addition of sugar and yeast to create the bubbles that make these wines so special.
Our sparkling wine Velvet & Vinyl is produced in the Méthode Champenoise style and is made from the pinot noir and chardonnay grapes. A few years ago Anthony and Michelle Faustini did an interview with Fox news on their wines. Afterwards they decided to go out and celebrate the occasion by ordering a La Grande Dame champagne. Anthony was wearing a velvet vest that night. Michelle brought up that he’s come a long way from spinning vinyl (he used to be a DJ) to wearing velvet. And so the idea of producing a sparkling wine named Velvet and Vinyl was born.
Nose: Citrus, pear and elderflower
Palate: Hints of fresh baked brioche, crisp golden apple, tiny delicate bubbles.
Food Pairing: this is a dry sparkling, the acidity and bubbles make it a great paring for salty dishes like oysters, grilled shrimp or fish tacos
Now you know the real deal behind those bubbles and hopefully you too will be able to "taste the stars". Till next time oneophiles... Cheers!
By, Shannon Hurley
Thank you one million and please continue the enjoyable work.
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