The problem is, part of the whole mission statement of OddBallGrape.com is to avoid those cliches. But, dang, for some reason, we’re stumbling across all these new and different bubblies. More importantly, there are lots of lists, but nothing on what bubblies are and what all that stuff on the label means.
Let’s start with the whole Champagne, not Champagne thing. What we’re actually talking about here are sparkling wines. Yes, we know most people refer to any wine with bubbles in it as champagne, even if it did not come from Champagne, France. Heck, even Anne does sometimes and she’s been known to be a real stickler for the designation.
But a sparkling wine is one that was intentionally made with bubbles in it. You can goof and make a wine that has bubbles in it by accident. And if a professional wine maker does, you can bet he or she will just bottle it as a sparkler and say it was intentional. Most sparkling wine is made one of two ways.
There’s the famous Methode Champagnoise – the one that the monk Dom Perignon did (by accident), in which the fermented wine is bottled and a second dose of sugar is added and the bottle is allowed to start fermenting all over again. However, because the bottle is sealed, there’s no place for the gases that are given off to go except into the wine and, voila, bubbles.
Then there’s Methode Charmat, better known as carbonated. Carbon dioxide gas is pumped into the fermented wine in the same way that it’s pumped into soda water and sodas. Seriously, that’s it.
Which do you want? Well, that’s a matter of taste. In a home winemaking experiment gone horribly wrong otherwise, a friend of ours made two batches of bubbly, one Methode Champagnoise and the other Charmat. We generally liked the Methode Champagnoise better. Charmat wines are generally younger and a little more in your face. The extra sugar and age tend to give the Champagnoise wines a nice softness.
The next big bubbly controversy is the whole glass thing – as in what type of glass to drink it out of. Sparkling wine used to be drunk out of wide, flat glasses until sometime in the 1980s. Or was it the ‘90s? Then tall, narrow glasses became the rage, whether flutes or tulip glasses. But get this – we’ve recently been to a few tastings where the wine was poured into regular old wine glasses.
So what type of glass is best for bubbly? Whatever one is clean and ready when the bottle is opened.
And, finally, some bubblies to look for. Trader Joe’s has been stocking some red bubblies – but do be aware that they can be a little on the sweet side. If you find a good Italian Lambrusco (besides Riunite, which tends to be over-sweet), those can be fun to try, especially with spicy Thai food.
Prosecco is an Italian sweet bubbly that Anne can generally do without, but Michael likes it a lot. We recently tried the Stellina De Notte, from Spumante, Italy, and liked it for its clean, balanced flavor. Probably good with breakfast.
Cavas are a Spanish bubbly – Freixinet is the best known brand and is generally pretty good. We like the Cordon Negro Extra Dry.
Pink bubblies, or sparkling roses – all kinds from all over – they’re just wonderful and tasty.
If you can find one, a sparkling Vouvray. Vouvray is a place name from France and made with chenin blanc grapes. The still wine tends to be very light and rich. The sparkler just that much better.
And if you can’t find the above wines, here are a few more terms to make sense of the labels on the bottles you do find:
Extra Dry: Medium dry
Sec: slightly sweet
Demi-Sec: Fairly sweet
So give the odd bubbly a try. Share with us here what you drank. And hold the orange juice, please. This is a mimosa-free zone.