SPARKLING IDEAS FOR THE NEW YEAR
Italy deserves a round of applause for focusing wine drinkers attention on sparkling wines over the past few years with its delightful and affordable Proseccos from the Veneto region of eastern Italy. Fermented using the Charmat process in giant stainless steel tanks, rather than methode champenoise which takes place in individual bottles, substantially reduces production costs while yielding vast quantities of enjoyable wine in only a few months versus years using the traditional method.
Priced between Bt600 anBt800 Prosecco can be the go-to wine for New Year’s festivities without breaking the bank. Look for labels specifying Valdobbiadene or Cartizze which produce the premium prosecco grapes of the region.
A step up among the many millions of bottes of sparklers being produced worldwide are Spain’s Cava wines. Brands like Cordorniu and Freixenet, priced around Bt1000 per bottle, are made by the traditional method in which secondary fermentation occurs in each bottle. The point is the bubbles tend to be finer and last longer than when done in large tanks.
Still further up the price scale are the authentic non-vintage wines of Champagne. Led by Moet & Chandon these are non-vintage blends of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, fermented in each bottle and aged at least 18 months before being sold. Other popular brands include Veuve Clicquot, Lanson, Louis Roederer and Perrier-Jouet, available in better local wine shops priced from Bt3200 up.
At the pinnacle of price and excellence in the craft of Champagne are the vintage bottlings of these premium treasures. Priced starting at about Bt12,000 per bottle and reaching the stratosphere these are a form of luxury reserved for rewarding yourself for good work done and yet to come!
Vintage Champagne is wine made from grapes of exceptional quality picked and blended in the same year. The wine is then aged a minimum of three years before being sold with some houses (wineries) holding the wine as long as seven or eight years before release. This extra aging coupled with limited production adds to prices that are often four times that of their non-vintage counterparts.
Price and availability definitely limits the occasions on which vintage Champagne is opened but critics agree that subtle hints of apple and yeast enhanced by natural effervescence make it compatible with a multitude of foods not to mention special events. Best known among dozens of internationally distributed vintage brands is Dom Perignon from the house of Moet-Hennessey owned by Louis Vuitton. Additional all-star winners include Taittinger Comtes De Champagne, Krug vintage, Roederer Cristal and Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque.
To savor the best of any sparkling wine chill for at least an hour in the fridge before opening and have an ice bucket on hand to maintain the temp throughout your celebration. As always use caution when opening by holding a towel over the cork as you remove the wire enclosure. Hold the cork while turning the bottle slowly until the pressure hisses from the bottle without popping out and losing not only effervescence but likely a glass of pleasure in the foam.
Finally, get the most from your sparkling wine by pouring it into a standard 350ml tulip shape wine glass rather than the commonly used flute so you can enjoy the full aroma and flavor of your festive treat. Santé!
Written by: R. James Mullen