Bubbles! Take a look at sparkling wines

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Christmas and New Year’s are fast approaching. It is the perfect time to break out the Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, Crémant, Brut, Asti or Sparkling wine. 

The effervescent Truro Daily wine tasting panel recently tasted the Lamarca Prosecco rating it 7.5 bubbles out of 10. It is an Italian sparkling wine and according to the winery it should be served between 46F and 50F. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Champagne, from France, will likely be the king of sparkling wines for many years to come, but the Spanish with their Cava, the Italians with their Prosecco and Asti, and many other countries, including Canada, with their own variants of sparkling wines are quickly closing the gap. While all champagne is sparkling wine, not all sparkling wine is champagne.


What makes a sparkling wine?


Contrary to popular belief, the monk, Dom Perignon, did not invent champagne. But he certainly revolutionized its production. 


The traditional method is the method used to produce champagne. While most wines are simply fermented in the barrels or tanks, sparkling wines undergo a second fermentation. This second fermentation under the traditional method is induced, in the bottle that you buy off the shelf, after the addition of a ‘liqueur de tirage’ (which is a mixture of sugar and yeast). This second fermentation is what produces the bubbles that sparkling wines are famous for.


The charmat method is a simpler, quicker method for lower-priced sparkling wines. The second fermentation under the charmat method takes place in large pressurized tanks.


The better the sparkling wine, the longer the bubbles will last. As well, the smaller the bubbles, the better the wine.


Due to their higher sugar and acid levels, high quality champagnes can age for many years.  There are some champagnes that have aged for more than100 years and are still very good (and likely very expensive). However, non-vintage (blends of different years) champagnes are meant to be drunk within a couple years of purchase. Vintage (single-year crops) and prestige cuvée champagnes can be held much longer. The vast majority of champagnes produced are non-vintage.



Opening a bottle of bubbly


Never, ever, open a bottle of sparkling wine with a corkscrew. You are courting personal injury as the bottles are under very high pressure. You are also likely to waste some nicely fermented grapes.


Also, while it may be fun to try and set a new distance record with a cork propelled by the bubbles, the proper way of opening a bottle of sparkling wine is to do so in a controlled manner. There should not be a loud popping sound, but rather a gentle hiss.  Boring, yes, but it prevents holes in the ceiling.


The proper way of opening a bottle of bubbly is to hold the cork and to twist the bottle.  Gently easing the cork out of the bottle. Do not let go of the cork until the process is completed.


Of course you can try and take the top of the bottle off with a sword. This is called sabrage. I once did so in my Navy days. Really fun, but kind of messy. If you plan on attempting this feat, make sure you use the back of the blade and run it along the seam in the bottle, propelling the sword faster as you reach the neck of the bottle. If you don’t have a sword you could substitute with a butcher’s cleaver. No glass bits will fall in to the bottle as the erupting wine will push it out.


Nova Scotia bubblies


Nova Scotia wineries are establishing themselves as premiere producers of sparkling wines. There are several wineries producing wonderful sparkling wines at varying price points. You really should take the time to explore them.


On a side note, my own vineyard, the Goose Landing Vineyard (look us up on Facebook), will be having the grapes from its first crop, which we harvested this fall, produced into a sparkling wine by Avondale Sky Winery. So, in two to three years there should be a North River bubbly available.



Pairing food with sparkling wines


Sparkling wines truly are magnificent. They can be paired with any food – from hamburgers and hot dogs to your elegant Christmas dinner. Just be careful that you use a drier bubbly with your turkey dinner, and a sweeter bubbly with your pizza and chicken wings.


Sparkling wine can be used as a breakfast drink.  It is called a mimosa. You should mix equal parts of orange juice and sparkling wine. If you pour the bubbly in first, you won’t have to stir. 


The preferred glass for drinking a sparkling wine is a champagne flute with a long stem.  Champagne is meant to be drunk at a cool temperature (37 F to 48 F). Holding the glass by the stem will prevent your hands from transferring your body heat to the wine in the glass (the main reason you should avoid buying those funky stem-less wine glasses).


Wine review


The effervescent Truro Daily News wine tasting panel recently tasted the Lamarca Prosecco. It is an Italian sparkling wine and it is on sale at your local for $17.99. According to the winery it should be served between 46 F and 50 F. 


This prosecco is made from the Glera grape in the Prosecco region near Venice. 


This wine has a nose of floral and citrus. It tastes of honey, peach, lime and lemon. It is dry versus sweet, with a nice crispness. It has a medium finish and a nice balance. It would be wonderful in your mimosa on Christmas morning. 


The effervescent tasting panel rated this sparkling wine 7.5 bubbles out of 10, and it’s score climbs to an 8.0 as the bubbles rise, the bottle empties, and the prosecco develops a smooth and creamy finish.    


Al Begin is the chief sparkly bubbles counter for the effervescent Truro Daily News wine tasting panel, and you can send your wine recommendations to him at tdngrapevine@gmail.com.


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