You call that champagne?!? It’s just bubbly

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Champagne,” a word that conjures up the most thoughts of divine palatial pleasure to both the novice, as well as advanced, drinkers.  A word most overused, misunderstood, and over-hyped.  It definitely aint what you are getting in those splits of Great Western at the bar.  Oh, and also give up that tired Frexenet.


What is it really?


Champagne is nothing more than sparkling wine made within the champagne region of France made from one of, or a combination of, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and/or Pinot Munier.  It is produced using a technique called secondary bottle fermentation, but I won’t go into that.  While it first gained fame in it’s role with the anointing of French kings, you might be surprised that the royal purple robes that they were clad in were dyed in Africa.


Technically, the only wines that can be considered champagne in France are those that are from that region.  There is one other vineyard, the Renault Winery, that can also produce a champagne that is accepted as a champagne in France.  They are located in Egg Harbor City, not far from the Jersey shore, and produce a wonderful blueberry champagne, as well as at least three others.


The range of champagne taste is as follows:

  • Brut Natural or Brut Zéro (less than 3 grams of sugar per liter)
  • Extra Brut (less than 6 grams of sugar per liter)
  • Brut (less than 15 grams of sugar per liter)
  • Extra Sec or Extra Dry (12 to 20 grams of sugar per liter)
  • Sec (17 to 35 grams of sugar per liter)
  • Demi-Sec (33 to 50 grams of sugar per liter)
  • Doux (more than 50 grams of sugar per liter)[

And you also have two basic styles, and the additional rosé.  Those styles are blanc de blancs, which means white from white grapes, and blanc de noirs, or white from black grapes.  I love to try the latter more than the former.


While I could go into champagne, I won’t… I am more interested in exploring bubbly, and its world.  Sparkling wines, with the nickname of bubbly, are comprised of champagne, cava, prosecco, marsecco, and any other wines that have used a secondary fermentation method, usually in the bottles, to produce carbonation.


Cava is from Spain, and is made from either the grapes of macabeo, parellada, xarel·lo, Chardonnay, Pinot noir, and Subirat.


Prosecco is from Italy, and is made from the prosecco grape.  Marsecco, a new thing, is a lovely semi-sparkling red from the Marzemino grape that can be ordered in Pennsylvania through the state stores.


Outside of that, you can get a whole range of great sparkling wines made from a ton of different grapes, including Shiraz.  Banfi makes both a Rosa Regali, which contains the taste of raspberries, and their Principessa Gavia Gavi, which is best once properly aerated.  Out of Japan, there are some sparkling sakes, the best being the two different flavors of Ai No Hime (Princess of Love), one having blueberry aspects, the other having guava, grapefruit and honeysuckle.  I have even had a peach flavored sparkling wine from France, and then there are your sparkling rosés as well.  Oh yes, I also almost forgot Asti.


Oh, and most of these taste better than Cristal.


The funny thing is the immediate psychological impact, or false expectations, that people have when believing that they are drinking champagne, or a sparkling wine that they have called the same.  I remember how some folks thought that they were all that when they were imbibing Champale during the 70s.  It seems that when people believe that they are drinking champagne, they take on both the attitude that they are among the elite, and that what they are drinking is so much better.  I always laugh when they don’t know the difference between champagne and what they are drinking, nor understand the fact that many people are creating quality sparkling wines.


The serving of bubbly:


My buddy Bill Eckleston, the General Manager and Sommelier down at Panorama prefers to serve bubbly at the beginning and end of any meal.  I could see how that might not only impress the taste buds, but also the ladies.  Another good place to stop for sampling bubbly is also Swanky Bubbles, tell Scott Forman that Zach sent you.


The right sparkling wine can stand on it’s own, but some deserve to be taken with either food, or lighter fare.  In either case, you have to realize that it will hit you quicker


Our bubbly producer:


There is actually one African American that is certified in France to produce champagne and his name is Branson B.  He has been referenced in over 35 rap songs,  and is accredited with kicking off the champagne craze in hip hop circles during the 90s, showing up many times with a couple of bottles to recording sessions.  His lable is called Guy Charlemagne and can be easily located online and in select places in New York.


What next?


Well, that’s up to you.  Right now, you can easily dismount from the high horse of flase beliefs regarding champagne, and start to embrace some bubbly options produced throughout the world.  I would recommend Pink and Yellow, both by Australian producer Yellowglen, but would also tell you to try some cavas and some proseccos.  I will definitely let you know where I get the Marsecco carried at, and do another wine tasting.  I think that it has the potential to blow the old Cristal frenzy out the water.  And the last note is that I am one person were talking about that Ace of Spades bubbly that is out; he made the joke that probably Jay-Z and someone else bet something stupid life five dollars to see how many people they could influence to buy it, simply by having it in a couple of videos.


Here’s to your next experience.

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Our Mission: The Black Winer strives to expose African Americans [and others] to wines, without the flair, stuffiness, and airs of elitism and snobbery that you get from sommeliers and high level wine enthusiasts. We believe in finding something that you like the taste of, outside of the basic brands that you have been force-fed over the years through a combination of ethnically targeted advertising, and what people in your family have historically been drinking.

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