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The best things in life are bubbles

Champagne

Question from Sheryl: Besides the obvious, what’s the difference between Champagne and sparkling wine?

In a nut shell – Well here’s the obvious for those that aren’t sure what the obvious is! They both have bubbles but what sets them apart is where they come from. Like zucchini and courgette. Champagne comes from a region in France called (wait for it) Champagne. It’s about 1.5 hours north east of Paris. Sparkling wine comes from everywhere else. It’s that simple!

In a clam shell – The chalky soil and cool climate in Champagne creates the perfect conditions for growing those delicious grapes but what’s also different is the way they make their bubbly. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to drink Champagne you’ve probably noticed a yeasty, bread-like taste (some people love it, some people hate it) which is a direct result of the way it’s been made – more on that later.

In Champagne, they start with a still, dry white wine (usually made from Pinot Noir, Meunier and/or Chardonnay grapes). They add a little sugar and a little yeast to the wine and bottle it. In the bottle, magic happens – it’s called fermentation (a chemical reaction that produces alcohol and carbon dioxide). Because the bottle is sealed and the carbon dioxide can’t escape it dissolves in the wine.

Now for the ‘yeasty, bread-like taste’ part. Once the yeast has gobbled up the sugar the wine is left to age. Because the yeast has nothing left to nibble on it dies and slowly releases those yeasty flavours into the wine. This can go on for months, even years.

To remove the yeast (otherwise the wine would be hazy) the bottle is slowly jiggled upside down until the dead yeast cells fall into the neck of the bottle. The neck of the bottle is frozen and when the cap is removed the plug of yeast pops out. Then the bottle is topped up with wine and a little sugar (depending on how sweet you want the wine) and ta dahhh! Champagne baby yeh!

You would have seen ‘traditional method’ or ‘method traditionalle’ on some Aussie sparkling wines. This means that they have used the Champagne method to make their sparkling but because the grapes were grown in Australia they can’t call it Champagne so they’ll slap ‘traditional method’ on the side of their bottle so you know it’s been made in the ladida way.

Now for the ‘method slackers’. Sugar and yeast are added to the base wine in a big sealed tank. When the yeast has had its feed the wine is bottled under pressure (so no bubbles escape). When you pop that cork the dissolved carbon dioxide escapes creating the bubbles. Because the wine doesn’t age with the dead yeast cells (like in Champagne) you get a fresh, fruity taste rather than those bready flavours (yum yum).

So there you have it Champagne vs. Sparkling and all the bits between.

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