Bubbles, fizz and sparkling wines
I told one of my friends recently that the corks in champagne bottles don’t originally start off mushroom-shaped, and that they are cylindrical like standard corks, only changing shape due to the time spent in bottle under pressure and the wire cage holding them in place.
She didn’t believe me, but it’s true…
Some other things to know about champagne so that you can impress your friends:
1) It’s only called champagne if it comes from the Champagne region in France. A few years ago the EU protected regional names, so everything outside of the Champagne region is called ‘sparkling wine’.
2) Other names for sparkling wine include Sekt (Germany), Spumante (Italy) and Cava (Spain), or other popular generic terms such as ‘fizz’ and ‘bubbles’.
3) There is a huge range of quality – so don’t get caught out. Cheap sparkling is made by adding bubbles in tank, similar to carbonating soft drinks, while the really good stuff is fermented in the bottle. Look out for the phrase ‘traditional method’ which indicates the latter: hand-made, time-consuming, higher-quality, production method.
4) You can find both vintage and non-vintage sparkling wines. The non-vintage wines are blends from a number of years, and give you a ‘house style’ carefully assembled by the winemaker to be consistent across every bottling. Vintage wines are the product of a single, declared year, and usually only made when the conditions are exceptional. Both are good, especially some of the great years from Champagne including 1996; 2000; 2002; 2006….
5) If you are thinking of enjoying a glass or bottle of sparkling wine, don’t get caught out by accidentally buying a style you don’t like.
In Hong Kong we are very lucky to have a great range of Sparkling wines.
Champagne is widely available, vintage and non-vintage, and there are other Sparkling wines from around the world with price points ranging from HK$100 to HK$1,000+++.
We’ve picked our heroes that are available in HK:
Sachetto Prosecco Brut $115
Why not try a top quality Prosecco? This wine will be softer, fruitier and have less ‘bubbles’ than other sparkling wines do, but it makes a great Sunday brunch option.
Jansz Premium Rose Non-Vintage $198
There can be no doubt that Tasmania, in Australia, is currently top of the cool-climate sparkling wine offerings. Enjoy it on its own, with some Aussie oysters, or, our favourite match is with steamed dumplings.
Chapel Down Brut $260
Brits in HK might like to know that Altaya has just started bringing in one of the UK’s finest sparkling wines – Chapel Down. This is a great example of why the French are now investing in vineyards in the south-east of England
Piper Heidsieck Cuvee Brut Non-Vintage $458
We think it is hard to look beyond this classic, medium-bodied champagne to encourage the idea that great champagne should be part of your regular repertoire, and not just for special occasions.
Larmandier Bernier Traditional Brut Non-Vintage $469
Anyone who truly loves champagne can’t really go past the new ETC shop in Central. It is easy to keep buying wines or brands you know, but if you want to venture beyond the familiarity of the well-known houses – such as Pol Roger; Veuve Clicquot or Krug – and try some of the smaller, specialist houses this is our recommendation.
Pierre Gimonnet Fleuron 2002 (Premier Cru) $620
The champagnehouse.com.hk has a large and excellent selection of vintage and non-vintage Champagnes, and we think this one represents excellent value for a great vintage – and it is a good opportunity to try a mature style with nearly 10 years of bottle age.