Pop the Bubbly! Everything you need to know about the sparkling behind your toast
Apr 07, 2016 09:44AM ● Published by Cate Reynolds
Rachel Smith Photography
Toasts, though they may be a tiny moment in your wedding festivities, will likely be some of the most memorable moments you take with you for the years to come. As your guests clink, cheers, and sip, knowing what it is they are drinking is an important decision for you to consider. Here’s what you need to know as you choose a beverage for your wedding toasts.
The “CHAMPAGNE METHOD”Sparkling wines and Champagnes come in varied styles appropriate for any event. Using a precise, laborious, time consuming, and expensive process known as the “Champagne method,” base wines are meticulously blended, yeast and sugar are added, the wine is bottled and a second fermentation occurs in the bottle. The wine is then aged, the cork is removed from the bottle, a small amount of wine and sugar is added to each bottle and the bottles are recorked. The gases that were formed during this process are now trapped in the bottle and dissolved in the wine only to be released as bubbles when the bottle is opened. A lot of work goes into getting those tiny bubbles into your glass!
STYLES of SPARKLING WINESWines produced by the “Champagne method” are crisp and elegant with styles that vary by the proportion of each grape variety in the blend. Wines made from more or all Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes (both red varieties) are full bodied and robust, muscular with a sustained bouquet and a sturdy structure. Some are powerful with smoky, earthy or woody aromas or concentrated with aromas of bread dough or biscuit pastry. Full-bodied sparkling wines and Champagnes naturally complement almost any food from foie gras and truffles to turkey, roast beef, or chicken.
Sparkling wines and Champagnes made with the emphasis on Pinot Noir are romantic, fleshy, smooth and well-balanced with delicate aromas of rose petals, spices and honey. Refined and subtle they are perfect served with desserts. This category includes Rosé and ‘demi-sec’ Champagnes and sparkling wines. And you don’t need to confine them to dessert. Serve them with biscuits and fruit tarts during an elegant afternoon reception.
Alternatively, Brut or Blanc de Blanc sparkling wines and Champagnes made with mostly Chardonnay grapes are crisp and light, racy with delicate aromas and quick, lively bubbles. Serve these wines with light delicate foods such as fish or shellfish, lobster or crab. They are perfect with caviar and also complement fresh desserts like sorbet.
If trying to keep your wine budget lower, try a Prosecco from Veneto, Italy. Unlike Champagne, Prosecco usually is produced using the Charmat-Martinotti method (tank method), in which the secondary fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks, making the wine less expensive to produce. Prosecco tends to have more present fruit and flower aromas and bubbles that are lighter, frothy, and spritzy with less persistence. Finer Prosecco wines often exhibit notes of tropical fruits, banana cream, hazelnut, vanilla, and honeycomb. Proseccos have become the sparkling wine of choice for Americans because it’s less expensive, fruitier, and with slight sweetness.
Cava is Spanish sparkling wine. The Cava hails from the Penedés region, just outside Barcelona and is one of the oldest viticultural areas in Spain. While the region produces fresh aromatic whites and light reds, it is best known for producing Spain’s sparkling wines. Made from local grapes using the traditional Champagne method, these fabulous sparkling wines are exceptional values. Cava is probably the most Champagne-like sparkling wine outside of France that uses different grape varieties than the Champagne ones.
TIPS for SERVING SPARKLING WINESServe Champagne well chilled but never ice cold. Over chilling hides the aromas and flavors in sparkling wine. Serve at 45–48ºF. The pressure in a bottle of sparkling wine is almost three times that in your car tire. Putting these wines in the freezer can cause the bottle to explode.
Always serve sparkling wines in tulip shaped glasses or flutes. Glasses of this type keep the bubbles lively longer and concentrate the aromas of the wine. Fill glasses no more than two-thirds full. Never serve in shallow, wide rimmed glasses. These glasses allow the bubbles and aromas to dissipate quickly.
Lastly, make sure you have enough to go around! For a toast, provide one bottle for every ten guests. For dinner, count on one bottle for every two to three guests. For a cocktail reception, one bottle will serve three to four guests.