Author Archives: Alisa in Wonderland
To be sure, champagne is the beverage of choice during the holidays, but do you know at what temperature it should be served? How should it be stored? What is the difference between vintage and non-vintage Champagne? Veuve Clicquot, the esteemed French winemaker, answers these questions and more.
What is the difference between a vintage and a non-vintage Champagne?
By law in Champagne, France, you cannot display a year on the label of a bottle unless all the grapes which make up the Champagne in the bottle have been sources from one single harvest, in one single year. This is known as a vintage. Wine connoisseurs seek vintage champagnes; non-vintage blends are not as attractive and should never go for more than 10% over the regular current price, according to Veuve Clicquot.
Why buy a magnum?
Magnums, which are twice the size of a regular bottle (750 ml), are optimal for aging wine: during the aging process, the wine is “breathing” even through the cork.
According to Veuve Clicquot, the best vintages in Champagne since the turn of the 20th century, include the following years (from most recent to oldest); 1998, 1996, 1990, 1989, 1988, 1985, 1979, 1976, 1969, 1969, 1955, 1949, 1947, 1943, 1934, 1929, 1921, 1918, and 1904.
The pouring temperature of Champagne will vary depending on the kind you will be serving. Young non-vintage champagne, with no year on the label, should be poured around 8 degrees Celsius (46 degrees Fahrenheit). Mature wines, on the other hand, such as vintage Champagne, should be poured between 12 to 14 degrees Celsius (54 to 57 degrees Fahrenheit).
Pairing Champagne with food
What can Champagne be served along with? Champagne goes well with pasta salads, sea food, oysters, shrimps, light fishes and antipasti. It also goes well with a cheese course as well as with many desserts.
How long can you keep Champagne?
Veuve Clicquot says non-vintage champagne should be enjoyed upon release, but may be stored for up to two or three years. Vintage Champagne can age longer; from 10 to 25 years depending on the style of each vintage.
How to store Champagne
Veuve Clicquot recommends Champagne be stored in the same manner as any regular fine wine. It should be kept at a cool and continuous temperature, which is ideally 10 to 12 degrees Celsius (50 to 54 degrees Fahrenheit) or at most between 7 to 15 degrees Celsius (45 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit). In addition, Veuve Clicquot recommends a high humidity (over 75%), good ventilation and darkness to create the best conditions.
What is the best way to open a bottle of Champagne?
Remove the foil and the wire cage. Next, slowly twist the cork back and forth about a quarter of an inch, while allowing the pressure inside the bottle to force it up. Do not pull the cork out of the bottle; it should be gently released.
Opening a great bottle of wine is always a huge pleasure and a tragic loss. You have been waited a couple of decades before drinking this Grand Cru Classé of Bordeaux and you will only be able to enjoy it one single night. Indeed, every time you open a bottle you are doomed to finishing it within the following hours. If you do not, the wine will get oxidized and will lose its flavors.
Coravin’s Wine Access System 1000 has just put an end to this curse. Thanks to a very accurate method, close to surgery, this revolutionary bottle opener will suck up a small quantity of wine, the equivalent of a single glass for example, without damaging the whole bottle.
The bottle opener took several years to be designed and be truly efficient. The team that made Coravin’s Wine Access System 1000 was even led by a former rocket scientist.
But how did they manage to elaborate a system enabling you to serve wine without popping the cork?
The whole system pretty much looks like an average sophisticated bottle opener. Except that the traditional corkscrew has been removed and replaced with a thin, hollow needle. When you push it into the bottle, it would release a small dose of argon inside the bottle’s chamber. This pressurizes the content to the point where the wine is forced up the needle and out of the bottle. No air could have got into the bottle during the process. When you are done, the cork would just fill up the little hole naturally. No air has penetrated in the bottle during the process. Your wine is safe and ready to be opened days, weeks or years after.
This new bottle opener arose a lot of attention in the wine-lovers community. Wealthy wine drinkers will not be afraid of the moment they will open their Château Lafite Rothschild or Château Margaux anymore. One bottle can be served on several special occasions.
Moreover, luxurious restaurants immediately showed enthusiasm. Usually, they could only serve one wine of exception to their clients. Now they can serve a larger selection of glasses of great wines to them.
Yet, the Coravin’s Wine Access System is reserved to a small community of people, since it costs about $300. But considering the current prices of Grands Crus Classés, Coravin’s Wine Access System will sound acceptable to the owners of such wines and will make them enjoy the wines way more than expected.
Not that you needed an excuse to pop a cork, but global Champagne Day is October 25. In restaurants, bars, living rooms and maybe even (evolved) offices, wine drinkers around the planet will be sipping frothy bubbles from the Champagne region of France. Which, by the way, is the only place true Champagne comes from. It’s not that other bubbly is bad; it just never tastes quite like the Real Deal.
Here are some fun facts to know about Champagne while you’re sipping:
1. The Champagne region is the easiest wine region to visit in France. Just an hour and a half train ride from Paris, and you’re there.
2. Champagne is the most northern wine region in France and the wines have unbelievable freshness and crispness as a result.
4. The bubbles in all Champagne are the result of a long, expensive process of a second fermentation inside each individual bottle. (Champagne, unlike cola or sparkling water—or even other sparkling wines—is not carbonated).
5. Champagne can only be made in Champagne, France. Sparkling wines made in other parts of France are called crémant.
6. The biggest flavor differences between Champagne and other sparklers comes down to 2 things: minerality (which is the result of Champagne’s amazing limestone soils) and creamy complexity (which is the result of the long years Champagne spends in contact with yeasts).
How do you decant wine?
Decanting wine simply means pouring it from its bottle into some other container: a carafe, a decanter, even a water jug. Here are 5 easy steps to decant wine:
- To decant a bottle with sediment, first leave it upright for about a day to settle the sediment at the bottom. When you’re ready, make sure the decanter and the mouth of the bottle are clean.
- For the actual pouring process, stand a flashlight on the table so that it shines upwards—it gives stronger light than the classic lit candle. Place the decanter beside it and pour the wine so that the light shines through the neck of the bottle. This will allow you to see when the sediment is approaching, so that you can stop pouring then.
- Discard the sediment left in the bottle.
- Leave younger wines in the decanter for about an hour or two, and older wines anywhere from fifteen minutes to a half an hour.
- Taste the wine periodically to see how it’s opening up. If you decide that the wine has peaked, but the guests aren’t due for a while, drape a cloth over the top of the decanter to slow aeration.
Why decant wine?
Wines are decanted to get rid of sediment, the organic matter that naturally precipitates from the wine as it matures. The wines that throw the most sediment are mature, full-bodied red wines and vintage port.
The second reason to decant is to let the wine breathe so that it helps to warm up a wine that’s too cold, soften any harsh tannins and open up its aromatics.
This is especially true of rough-and-not-ready reds, particularly young, full-bodied ones: Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Brunello, Barolo, Bordeaux, Rioja, Shiraz, Syrah and Northern Rhone wines.
Should some wines not be decanted?
Even decanting hardliners admit that some wines just aren’t made for airing out. Delicate red wines, such as Pinot Noir and gamay, aren’t usually decanted because their subtle aromas can quickly dissipate.
The same goes for zesty whites, such as Rieslings and Sauvignon Blanc: they can lose their crisp, refreshing edge.
Others are borderline: full-bodied whites, such as oakey chardonnays and some sweet wines, may benefit from decanting, depending on the style you like.
Which types of decanters are best?
You need a decanter large enough to hold the contents of a standard bottle, with some room at the top to allow the wine to breathe.
Decanters that maximize the wine-to-air surface ratio are best for young wines, while those with narrow necks that reduce air exposure are better for older wines that just need their sediment removed.
My personal favorite decanter is the “duck” style made by Riedel and others. It allows for lots of air exposure, but is very easy to pour and distributes the weight of the wine evenly. You also don’t get that awkward moment near the end of the wine when you have to tip a decanter like the one at the top of this post almost upside down to get the last drops of wine.
This month, Chateau Montelena Winery proudly released the 2011 Napa Valley Chardonnay, making this the 40th vintage of Chardonnay produced at Chateau Montelena.
Here is what our winemaker, Cameron Parry, has to say about the wine and the 2011 vintage:
“This Chardonnay shows a beautiful rich golden straw color in the glass with clean pure aromas of pear and crisp green apple, all overlaid with light tropical fruit notes and a hint of honeysuckle. On the palate, this wine has wonderful fullness and creaminess without being heavy. A clean soft entry is quickly followed by crisp acidity and a rich display of fruit including juicy nectarine and white peach along with a hint of lychee and fresh citrus. The flavors on the finish are reminiscent of pear tart while the oak contribution is well integrated throughout the profile, with just a touch of nuttiness showing through.”