Tuesday, September 21, 2010
For the last 4 Monday nights, Mr Curious and I have been spending some quality time together - we attended a wine appreciation course. It was something that we wanted to do for a long time, and with my BIL playing babysitter, we were good to go.
Last night was the final class, and in my opinion they saved the best till last. It was time for Champagne and sparkling wines! [Note: I will use the term "Champagne" for the rest of this post to cover all sparkling wines. Only sparkling wines made in the Champagne region in France, following a prescribed method, can be labelled "Champagne").
Our instructor talked through Champagne making method, the types of grapes used in making Champagne (only 3 types can be used - Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier). The rules for making Champagne is so strict it is enshrined in law!
Champagne is very delicate so all the grapes are hand-picked, and usually only the first press of the grape juice is used.
The process that gives Champagne its bubbles is a secondary fermentation, where the winemaker adds yeast (each brand has its secret recipe) and sugar to the base still wine (cuvée), pours the mixture (tirage) into a bottle and seals it with a bottle cap. The reaction between the sugar and the yeast creates the bubbles (CO2). The pressure of the gas is so strong that all Champagne bottles are made with reinforced glass and wiring is used to hold the cork in place. The tirage is left in the bottle for at least 18 months for the flavours to develop, before they extract the dead yeast.
One interesting step during the secondary fermentation is call "ridding" (le Remuage). It involves a person (called the riddler) turning the Champagne bottles slightly every day to move the yeast gently towards the bottleneck. Apparently they can turn up to 30,000 bottles a day!
Well that's enough of the theory. We tasted 7 sparkling wines (including 2 rosé and a red! I prefer the classic stuff ), and a Champagne - Delamotte Brut. Do yourself a favour and check it out. C'est magnifique!