Sparkling Wines: Things You Need to Know Before Pop the Cork
Sparkling wine adds a sense of occasion to any event, be it a special celebration such as a wedding or birthday, or a garden party or client event. It’s also considered an aperitif, it opens the palette and stimulates the appetite so that your guests become more excited in anticipation of the meal you’re cooking up for them. To create bubbles in the wine, it is fermented not once, but twice. The first fermentation creates the alcohol, and the second makes it effervescent. There are cheaper sparkling wines in which the bubbles are simply added by carbonation (much like soda). However, with the more classic methods, the wine is aged to produce a fuller body and creamier texture- definitely worth the extra pennies.
A brief history of Champagne
Champenois winemakers were historically envious of their counterparts in Burgundy. The climate in the Champagne region made it hard to grow grapes that would ripen fully so their wines were often more acidic than that of their rivals. To add insult to injury, the climate also meant that during the winter months, fermentation would come to a halt as temperatures plummeted. Much to the chagrin of the Champenois, when the weather warmed up and a second round of fermentation took hold, pressure would build inside the bottles, often causing the weak glass to shatter. Exploding bottles of Champagne were not what they were aiming for. Even Dom Perignon himself saw the bubbles in Champagne as a fault and every effort was made to keep the Champagne still and pale.
Whether it was a clever marketing ploy to export their faulty wine or it happened by accident, the British started to get a taste for the bubbles in Champagne and so a new market was born for sparkling wine. Later on, during Philip II’s regency from 1715, even French nobility started to enjoy the bubbles and so it became fashionable in France to drink sparkling wine. The challenges of keeping the wine in the bottle suddenly became worthwhile and soon, other wine makers in the region started to make thicker bottles so that they could compete with the market leaders.
Sparkling wine pairings for a match made in heaven
Champagne and other sparkling wines shouldn’t be relegated to aperitif only. With their palette-cleansing acidity and zesty flavours, they make for a perfect partnership with cheeses, smoked salmon, pork, creamy sauces and more. Here are a few of our favourite pairings to send your dinner guests into a bubbly frenzy.
What to pair with Champagne: Use the acidic qualities of a traditional champagne to cut through rich and buttery foods such as shortbread, buttered popcorn, mascarpone cheese and smoked salmon. For fresh and fruity desserts, try berries or seasonal fruit tarts or crepes.
Foods to pair with sparkling Rose: With its dusky pink hues, sparkling rose may look sweet, but in most cases it has a wonderfully dry palette that makes it work perfectly with anything you would pair with its white cousin but also lends itself well to sweeter dishes like summer berries in chocolate.
Pairing Cava and food: Cava’s Spanish roots and budget-friendly pricing makes it a perfect match for a large gathering and a smorgasbord of tapas. Salty snacks with rich and fatty oils like salted almonds, whitebait, olives and Serrano ham become balanced by Cava’s refreshing, dry bubbles.
Pairing prosecco: Think party food, think prosecco!Prosecco is usually sweeter than other sparkles so while its drier varieties will work well with any of the aforementioned dishes, the sweeter wines work in perfect partnership with macaroons, mousses and even nostalgic favourites like sponge cake or jelly and ice-cream.
How to choose sparkling wine
Firstly, forget about the price tag. A high price-point doesn’t guarantee you a good wine, whether it’s sparkling or still. Also, consider what you prefer and what will be most enjoyed by your guests. Most people won’t enjoy the driest or sweetest ends of the spectrum so if it is for a party, look for a good all-rounder that goes well with the food you will be serving. Here are a few pointers on what to look out for when choosing the right sparkling wine or best champagne:
Dry, fruity & light: Look for brut or extra-dry prosecco, ReislingSekt or a new-world wine from Argentina, the US or South Africa for a drier, fruitier wine.
Creamy, rich and nutty: This really does require a wine made in the classic style with an extended tirage and rest on the lees (the fine particles of yeast cells that give added flavor). Look for Champagne or other wines made with this method from other regions.
Sweet sparkling wines: Consider moscato or even a Shiraz (yes, that is a sparkling RED wine) if you have a sweet tooth. But be careful not to overwhelm your guests with a drink that could become too sugary if you are looking for a wine that will work for more than a glass or two.
The team at Invisible Kitchen love nothing more than a glass of sparkling to get any event started. Last month, Chef Tom and some of his team enjoyed a great evening on a sparkling wine master class. Since then we have joined up with the Wine Educator Marjolaine Roblette-Geres to offer some great sparkling wine packages whether for a fun hen activity or entertaining corporate meeting.
Still unsure what to choose for your event? Chef Tom’s tips include:
For a good all-rounder Champagne, consider Moet &Chandon Brut, a classic Champagne that combines fruitiness and maturity and suits most palettes. Or for a small-batch Aussie sparkling white,try ‘Soaring Kite’ from a wine-maker in the Adelaide Hills.
If you need more help, ask us about how we can supply perfectly paired drinks for any upcoming events.