New Year is just a day away so this week we are talking fizz with a focus on Champagne. Making Champagne or fine sparkling wine is not cheap given the complexity of the production process. Certainly a few euro is added for prestige purposes but this also happens with the best Californian fizz and with Cava, writes Leslie Williams.
A quick brush-up on the process: first ferment your grapes into still wine, either in stainless steel or in old neutral oak (as happens at Krug and Bollinger).
Next comes the blending of the different ferments from different plots from the same year or with the addition of wines from previous years for Non-Vintage (NV).
Once you have chosen a blend that fits your house style or the character of the Vintage then bottle it and add a small spoonful of Liqueur de Tirage — a sugar, wine and yeast mix that will cause the secondary fermentation.
The wine at this stage is often stoppered with a simple beer cap. After some time resting and fermenting the wine is then gently shaken (riddled) by machine or by hand so that the dead yeast cells are trapped in the neck.
The neck is then frozen and the sediment is popped out. The final act is to add Liqueur d’Expidition or Dosage where the wine is topped up with reserve wine mixed with sugar – the level of sugar gives you the classification — Brut-Nature (no sugar), Extra-Brut (0-6g/ltr), Brut (up to 12g) etc. and then extra bottle-ageing before release.
A quick word on one of my best Champagne experiences this year which was the Krug Winter Menu at Wilde’s at the Westbury Hotel in Dublin which continues into January and includes some very good food-wine pairings.
Krug make just a handful of styles, all of them prestige — the consistently brilliant ‘entry-level’ Grand Cuvée costs around €200.
Each bottle is numbered and there is a handy app you can consult to find out more about that particular bottling.
Krug have made just 163 versions of the Grand Cuvée and only around 20 versions of the Rosé which I think I like even more thanks to its intense floral (rose petal) red fruits and its exquisite silky texture.
The Krug 2002 had intense citrus and a focused herbal (lemon balm) character while the 2004 had more dried apricot and biscuit character.
BEST FIZZ UNDER €30
This frizzante rosé has a little less fizz so avoids the double taxation applied to Spumante, Champagne and Crémant etc. Despite being frizzante this has a nicely persistent mousse, ripe red fruit aromas with some floral notes and a lush red fruit palate. Perfect as a pre-dinner drink.
This wine only launched in early December but I’m guessing it will be easy enough to find by New Year. Light creamy apple and citrus aromas, fresh and crisp with a touch of lemon peel on the finish. Inexpensive fun fizz.
A blend of Pinot Blanc, Aligoté and Chardonnay from an (uncertified) organic family run estate. A lovely supple, fruit driven fizz, exactly what you hope for from Crémant (but rarely find). Light brioche and citrus aromas, soft and fruity on the palate with a creamy texture, taut freshness and a pleasing focused finish with a hit of bitter lemon acidity.
BEST FIZZ OVER €15
M&S pride themselves on their fizz (e.g. the good value Graham Beck range and almost all the Champagne on their list) and I’ve always like Oudinot. This has dried cherry aromas with touches of rose oil, soft and fruity on the palate with soft summer fruits, dry, clean and focused on the finish.
Duval-Leroy are a solid smaller house and their excellent standard NV is currently just €39 at the stockists above. This is mainly Pinot Noir and pours a pale delicate pink with fine streams of tiny bubbles; packed with cherry and raspberry aromas, full and solid in style with a crisp elegant finish.
The Roederer Champagne House is consistent across the range so don’t fret on vintages. The Pinot Noir is sourced from Cumières and ripe red fruit aromas dominate the nose, citrusy supple intensity from the Chardonnay comes through on the palate and the whole is balanced and elegant.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved