Mar 12: Despite the best efforts by Champagne to classify a bubbly as champagne only when produced in this French region under strict laws, an average wine drinker still addresses any sparkler as champagne, but surprisingly a vast number also think that Champagne is ‘champagne’ and not wine as I discovered recently at a string of functions organised to celebrate the wedding of a friend’s daughter.
Seeing a flute in my hand during most of the three evenings when the sparkling wine was the celebratory drink, several friends who know me as a ‘wine only’ drinker approached me and expressed surprise. ‘We thought you drank only wine,’ was the most common refrain. They could not believe that Champagne is also wine.
Several people kept asking for champagne and loving it. Many came to thank me for selecting wonderful champagne when in fact we had a Schlumberger Rose Sparkling Brut from Austria on one day and Carpené Malvolti Prosecco on another occasion besides the staple Moet e Chandon on the third. I took time out of a decade of educating wine drinkers that every sparkling wine is not Champagne which must be produced in the Champagne region of France using Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier grapes under controls; my due apologies to CIVC-Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne, the association of champagne producers, for not carrying out the honorary job unknown to them, on these two occasions.
For once, I was too exhausted and was enjoying too much of the bubblies to tell the friends and other guests that it was not Champagne they were drinking but a sparkling wine, howsoever inviting and delicious.
Schlumberger sparkling Rose Brut is made from Austrian Pinot Noir grapes using the Methode Traditionelle (Methode Champenoise is the name of the process by which champagne is made but the term may not be used except when describing the making of Champagne although the term is still misused in India and many parts of the world). It retails for around Rs.1995 in Goa and Rs. 2500 in Gurgaon, whereas the regular Moet Chandon Brut costs twice as much- Rose is not even available easily and would cost 20-25% higher, if it were retailed.
Carpené Malvolti is an Italian sparkling wine, produced in the town of Conegliano in Veneto region, 40 kms from Venice, from the indigenous Prosecco grapes and made by the Charmat method (by fermenting wine in the stainless steel tank for the second time, under pressure). One of the oldest wineries in Conegliano, the founder Antonio Carpené is credited with inventing this process. Several years ago, I visited the winery and was surprised to discover that it was the only winery which kept the tanks for the secondary fermentation in a chilled room kept at -4° C. Perhaps that brings out the freshness and richness in the texture, keeps the apple flavours and the level of the froth (mousse) high and makes it delicious enough for people wanting more till the finite quantity was finished.
Basically, champagne or a sparkling wine (there should be no confusion about the categorization of this bubbly as the word sparkling is always used in conjunction with wine) is a wine in which the carbon dioxide released during fermentation is entrapped through two different processes to make it zingy for a long time after the bottle is opened and make the bubbles as small and as many as possible. To keep the fresh flavours the grapes are generally harvested earlier than usual when the acidity is higher and sugar level lower-this has the additional benefit of lower alcohol; most Champagnes and other sparkling wines have 11-11.5% alcohol.
So if you drink wine, only because the doctor told you to, go ahead and drink a glass of Champagne, Prosecco, or a Rosé bubbly from any country and any producer including a Sula or Zampa from India. For me- I hope less people will question me next time they see me holding a flute (the tulip shaped glass). I hope they would know it is wine and would rather discuss the flavour, body or even whether it is Champagne, Cava (as it is known generally in Spain), Spumante or Frizzante (generally any Italian bubbly), Methode Cap Classique (MCC) as it is known in South Africa, if made by the traditional Champagne process..
Whether you drink wine, champagne or any other bubblies, let me raise a toast to you and say, À votre santé- to your health!
Mar 12, 2011