To mark the final in our short series of Cases Wine Warehouse wine columns, we are finishing in style by covering that most celebratory of drinks — champagne, or sparkling wine. Bubbly used to be for very special occasions but now, thanks to the great value on offer from all over the world, it is for any special occasion! Bubbles in wine bring celebrations to life. They bring an immediate sense of occasion to any event. Sparkling wines are the wine world’s way of saying “thank you”, “well done”, “congratulations”, “let the show go on”, or “it’s Friday!”.
It’s relatively easy to make a wine sparkle. It’s quite a different proposition to make a quality wine at the same time. Wine makers in the Champagne district of northern France have been paving a quality trail for a long time now. Their secret is that they make very fine grapes into a wine which they then blend together and allow to re-ferment and age slowly in the bottle over a lengthy period of time. Their cellars are carved out of chalk and are majestic cooling cathedrals hidden below the surface. Family skills are passed down through generations. Bollinger, Taittinger, Clicquot and Hiedsieck are among the most famous family names in the world.
Other countries have mimicked the process used by the Champenoise method and can make wines of equal quality. Each country tends to have its own unique style. Cava comes from Spain. The grapes it uses and its climate bring a distinct citric character to Cava. Try Marques de Monistrol or the organic Can Rafols del Caus as an aperitif. They are brilliant ice breakers!
Prosecco comes from Italy. We often see frizzante styles (la Farra ) where the bubbles are light and soft. While we don’t have to reserve these for romance they certainly add to the fire! Fully sparkling (spumante ) Prosecco has a crispness which adds great fun to all warm summer days. Try Musaragno for an organic Brut Spumante which can rival any sparkling wine for enjoyment.
The New World is beginning to excel at sparkling wine production. Green Point from Victoria in Australia is as close to Champagne as you will find, and probably better value to boot. Bay of Fires from the cool climate of Tasmania is an exceptional wine showing fine biscuit aromas and a substantial palate. Pearly Bay from South Africa is a sparkler for those with a sweet tooth while Guy Charbaut Rosé Champagne is a style for that ‘pink’ occasion.
We shouldn’t forget the amazing sparkling styles which come from regions other than Champagne in France. Crémant from the south of France has been produced since before Champagne. Try George and Roger Antech’s Crémant de Limoux, or Crémant from Burgundy, the Loire, Alsace, or the Rhone Valley which are ranked among the most brilliant sparklers in the world.
Many thanks to all the Galway Advertiser readers who gave us great feedback over the past 10 weeks — we look forward to seeing you in Cases Wine Warehouse over the summer!