The particular demands of the champagne method, which takes a number of years (three on average and many more for vintage years), requires that over a milion bottles be kept in storage at any one time. According to the CFCE (Centre Francais du Commerce Exterieur), exportation of champagne represents an important part of total French wine exports.
Wine has been made in Champagne since at least the time of the Roman invasion. The first wines to be produced were white; laster production was of red and then 'gris' (grey), which is white or nearly-white wine that comes from pressing black grapes. At an early stage the wine had the irritating habit of fizzing up in the barrels. Systematic bottling of these unstable wines was invented in England, to where, dissolve in the wine, and sparkling wine was born. Dom Perignon, the procurator of the Abby in Hautvillers and a forward-looking blending technician, produced the best wines at his Abbey; he was also able to sell them for the highest prices.
Read More about Champagne
Putting the bubbles into wine can be done in several ways but only sparkling wines made in a certain region of narthern France can be called Champagne.
The best way to produce sparkling wine is the 'Methode Traditionelle' , practised in Champagne and elsewhere. Base wines high in acidity and fermented to dryness are bottled and a small amount of sugar and yeast is then introduced to create a second fermentation. It is the second fermentation which creates carbon dioxide and thus the bubbles which give the wine its sprakle. As the carbon dioxide is unable to escape into the air it dissolves into the wine. The sediment, or less, left behind by the spent yeast stays in conctact with the wine until dégorgement, and imparts biscuity flavours and complexity.
'Dégorgement' is the removal of the lees, in order to render the wine clear and bright. A process known as 'rémuge', which invols the twisting and turning of the bottles, slowly shifts the lees to the neck of the bottle. The necks of the bottles are then passed through a solution of freezing brine in order to freeze the first inch or so of wine now containing the lees. When the cap is removed, the pressure in the bottle forces out the ice pellet.
To finish, the wine lost during 'dégorgement' is replaced by a mixture of wine and cane sugar, called the 'dosage' or 'Liquer d'Expedition'. The amount of sugar added has a bearing on the final style of the wine, for example a small amount of sugar is added for the dryish style of Brut while more is added for the quite sweet and sticky rich.
A cheaper form of secondary fermentation can take place in closed tanks. Known as 'Cuve close', the wine is bottled under pressure so that it retains carbon dioxide. This method is generally reserved for less expensive fizz.
Particular grape varieties are sought the world over. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir both have the attributes required to make great champagnes and sparkling wines. Although the best champagne may be a first choice for many as a 'desert island' bottle, there are plenty of fine sparkling wines around.
Areas of England with chalky soil, combined with the country's cool climate, make it capabile of producing top-quality sparkling wine. Fruity and expressive sparklers come from riper fruit in countries such as Australia, USA, New Zealand and South Africa, while the favoured choice from Spain is Cava, a lighter sparkling wine made from indigenous grape varieties.
It is a shame that almost everything with bubbles in gets called Champagne. There are top quality Cavas made by the traditional method that are far better in quality than the most lowly of Champagnes.
Calling these wines Champagne is to undervalue them. Not only is it incorrect but in common with other sparkling wines, the Spanish Cavas have their own story to tell about the grape varieties used, the soil on which they are grown, and the weather conditions that are quite different to those of Champagne. This Spanish wine has been made by the same methode traditionnelle as French sparkling wines since the end of the nineteenth century.
Cava came into being in the province of Barcelona in 1872 because the local innkeepers and hoteliers could not meet the increasing demand for good sparkling wine. The Catalans decided to make their own sparkling wine instead of always having to import either expensive Champagne or cheap Blanquette de Limoux.
When asked why he drank Champagne for breakfast every morning, Noel Coward replied, “Doesn’t everyone?”.
“In victory you deserve it; in defeat you need it,” said Napoleon.
Champagne is the most northerly vineyard in France, a large plain split by the River Marne 90 miles east of Paris. There are about 72,000 acres of vineyards within the Champagne appellation, some 15,000 growers, more than 4,500 producers including 110 Houses and about 250 miles of tunnels for storing and ageing the wine. Annual sales are around 250 million bottles, of which 40 per cent is exported.
Champagne, the outstanding symbol of festivity, may only be produced in the Champagne region of France. No other wine from wherever else it is made inside France of elsewhere, may not use the prestigious name of Champagne. Champagne is an unparalleled wine.
The historic heart of Champagne is Reims, about 93 milles north-east of Paris. The geographical centre of the Champagne region is at Epernay, slightly south of Reims. Champagne is subdivided into four large areas: the Montagne de Reims, the Vallée de la Marne, the Côte des Blancs, and finally the Côte de Bar in the department of Aube, between Bar-sur-Seine and Bar-sur-Aube.
An extremely versatile variety of grapes, Chenin Blanc is capable of making dry and crisp white wines that are great as an aperitif, through to medium, unctuous and sweet styles.
Due to the keeen and vibrant acidity often found in Chenin Blanc grape, they make brilliant food wines and can stay in good shape for many years after the vitange. The grape seems to thrive best in marginal climates, such as the Loire Valley. and on chalky soils. Along the Luire Valley, in Vouvray, Montlouis, Anjou, Bonnezeaux, Quarts de Chaume, and Coteaux du Layon, Chenin can be hugely complex and of great character. The most amazing quality of Chenin Blanc wines is their longenity. Curiously, they become sweeter rather than drier with age. These are wines that can really benefit from bottle amutration and consequently make really good presents for christening of naming cereminies! The best Chenin Blancs are some of the wine world's most undervalued treasures.
Less exciting wines are produced elsewhere. In South Africa for exemple, Chenin Blancs, known locally as Steen, often lack in complexity unless they are made from low-yielding bush vines, or the winemaking is in the capable hands of a conscientious producer. Old vine Chenin can take on another dimension when barrel fermentated or aged in oak.
Chenin Blanc wines are made in the Loire, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and California. The sweet wines are found in the Loire and South Africa.
Today world's most popular white grape, Chadonnay express its varietal character in many forms: from the racy, steely, and nervy wines of Chablis, to the fuller-bodied, buttery rich wine made in the Napa Vally, California.
This is an aromatic grape, which ripens early and is mostly grown in cool-climate vineyards. Its range extends from featherweight tangy, dry white wines like Sauvignon de Touraine, to the ripe, almost tropical-like fruitiness obtained in California, where the less common addition of oak is often adopted and labelled 'Fume Blanc'. Sauvignon Blanc thrives on chalk or gravel soil.
The Riesling grape is seen by many as the most versatile variety of white grape in the world. It is without doubt a class act with a number of strengths, not least its ability to outperform Chardonnay in the longevity stakes.
Arguably one fo the most underrated verieties of grapes, Sémillon, Bordeaux's most widely planted white grape, makes delicious dry and sweet wines. With an almost honeyed texture, Sémillon is often partnered by Sauvignon Blanc to lift the acidity, although Australian winemakers also blend Sémillon Trebbiano.
This distinctive grape variety is known by its friends simply as Gewürtz but sometimes also as Traminer. It provides interese aromas, reminiscent of lychee, rose petals and spice.
The basic grape for this famous Italian wine is the Sangiovese grape (75-90%), supplemented with Canaiolo (5-10%), and the white Trebbiano Toscano, and Malvasia (5-10%). Only 5% of white grapes may be added to Chianti Classico. The white grapes are used to slightly reduce the harsh tannin that can be associated with the Sangiovese grape. A good Chianti is a very intense and clear ruby red colour. With age this tends towards granite red. The nose is very pleasing, full, and delicate. Connoisseurs can detect subtle notes of violets in it.
Many wines that do not reach the required standard for Chianti DOCG may be classified as Colli dell’ Etruria Centrale DOC. It would be an injustice though to merely dismiss this recently created DOC as a receptacle for poor Chianti wines. There are great Italian wines made within this DOC that do not meet the stipulated proportions of grapes. Just as with Colli Lucchesi some wine makers steadfastly refuse to choose solely from the four mandatory grape varieties. They believe that the combination of Sangiovese with the Cabernets (Sauvignon and Franc) delivers much better results. This was absolutely not permitted and hence until recently the ‘super Tuscan’ wines were downgraded to vino da tavola or table wine.
This superb white French wine made with Roussane grapes is worth a mention of its own. It is a very complex wine with suggestions of roasted nuts, toast, dried fruit, and occasional hint of anise or fennel. It is surprisingly fresh with a full flavoured taste, with a prolonged development of the bouquet. Do not drink too cold (approx. 12°C/53.6°F).
ROUSSETTE DE SAVOIE
The white French wines (Roussette de Savoie and Seyssel) are made with the Altesse (Roussette) grape. This ancient variety of vine is reputed to have been brought back from the crusades by a princess from Cyprus. The colour of the wine is pale yellow and somewhat pearl-like when young but this disappears
in due course.
The scent is reminiscent of a large bunch of wild flowers such as violets and irises with a hint of almonds. The taste is a full one and rounded. The wine sometimes also contains sugar remnants which makes it even more pleasant.
VINS DE SAVOIE ROUGE
There are three different types of French wine here. The Gamay is fairly typical and characteristic of its terroir. It colour is cheerful and bright while the aromatic taste is correspondingly fresh . Drink chilled to approx. 12°C (53.6°F).
The Mondeuse is much darker in colour with purple tinges. The bouquet and taste are more complex than that of the Gamay. You can smell and taste a mixture of red fruit, pepper, and spices. The tannin present can be somewhat harsh when the wine is young but this softens later. Good Mondeuse can be kept for a long time. Serve at 14°C (57.2°F). The Pinot Noir is somewhat rarer. It is ruby red and has a complex bouquet and and taste. Serve lightly chilled at 14°C (57 .2°F) .
Ayze is made with the Gringet grape, while Seyssel derives its charm from the Molette and Altesse grapes. Both are excellent lightly sparkling white wines of great elegance. Drink at 100°C (50°F).
The vineyards of Bugey lie to the west of Savoie in the department of Ain. This VDQS French wine is relatively unknown and often also unloved because of its fresh acidity. The Bugey wine-growing district was once more extensive but today the small vineyards are scattered over a large area, mainly on land with broken chalk soils.
Although there are a number of acceptable red and white still wines produced in Bugey, the sparkling Cerdon is the most interesting to mention. This French wine is constantly improving its quality.
Chile is a very elongated but relatively narrow country of 3125 miles long and 56 to 250 miles wide (5,000 km long and 90 to 400 km wide), nestling at the foot of the Andes mountains. Grapes are grown here over some 875 miles (1400 km) between the 27th and 39th parallels. An assortment of different soil types and microclimates ensure quite a degree of diversity in the types of wine.
Chile's climate is similar to the Mediterranean with damp winters and spring and a dry summer. Chile is blessed with perfect conditions for quality wines with a fairly marked difference between day and night time temperatures, lots of hours of sunshine, and fairly high humidity from the nearby ocean.
Chilean wine was in a state of almost medieval lethargy until some years ago, following a surge in quality in the nineteenth century as a result of the arrival of European immigrants. Wine-growing was started by the Conquistadors. The same out-dated methods to make and keep wine had been used for centuries and these were far from hygienic. This changed radically in the late 1970s when the Spanish firm of Torres were the first to establish themselves in Chile. The vineyards were cleaned out and new vines planted while the winemaking equipment was either extensively renovated or totally replaced by ultra modern equipment. The old and often dirty wine vats were replaced with small barriques of new wood. Despite this it was surprisingly long before modern Chilean wines reached Europe.
Names such as Villard, Santa Rita, Torres, Errazuriz, and Santa Carolina were the first to do so. Exports only got going in a big way in the 1990s. Big companies like Torres and Concha y Toro (Spain), Lafite Rothschild, Marnier Lapostelle, Pernod Ricard, Larose Trintaudon, Bruno Prats of Cos d'Estournel, and Mouton Rothschild (France) and Mondavi of California are still investing millions of dollars in the Chilean wine industry.
Chilean wine history...
Chile produces much less wine than Argentina, but has had greater success on the export markets. Known of its fruits and appealing wines, made from a wide range of grape varieties, Chile has the knack of producing wine style that consumers are very happy to drink.
The foundations of today’s Chilian wine industry were laid down in the 1850s. Many South Americans were great travellers and wealthy landowners made the long journey to visit the vineyards of Europe.
They retured with healty vines from regions like Bordeaux, which explains the presence of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carménere, a grape variety that was, eventually, to give Chilian winemakers a real point of difference. It wasn’t until the 1990s that Carménere eas identified by the French ampelographer Jean Michel Bourisiquot. Up until this time Carménere had been commonly mistaken for Merlot. Chilian Carménere has abundant blackbarry-like fruit, chocolate, and coffee flavours.
Only 15 bodegas bottle Cigales. The area is situated on both sides of the Pisuerga river, between Valladolid in the south and Burgos in the north, with vineyards extending to a mere 2,700 hectares. Cigales has a long history as a supplier of fine rosado wines which were served at the Castilian court in the thirteenth century but it has only enjoyed DO status since 1991. Nowadays there are also excellent red Spanish wines from Cigales.
The climate of Cigales is continental, but there is some influence from maritime winds which result in greater rainfall than the other wine areas of Castilla. The vineyards are sited both in the valley and on the slopes, at a height of 2,296-2,624 feet (700-800 metres).
Among all Bordeaux classifications existing, it is the 1855 classification that’s meant when someone refers to Classification. It had been commissioned by Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce that was needed by the government of Second Empire for presenting selection of their wines at 1855 Exposition Universelle in Paris. Because of their own requirements, Bordeaux Stock Exchange brokers traditionally categorized most popular Bordeaux properties based on the prices they fetched, hence they had been charged by the Chamber of Commerce for submitting the entire list of the classified red Bordeaux wines along with great white wines.
As the name indicates, these Italian wines come from the gently undulating hills to the south and west of Bologna. Drink this Italian wine at 46.4- 50.0°F (8-10°C). The local Sauvignon makes a fine aperitif. It is fresh, dry, slightly aromatic, with a fulsome flavour. Drinking temperature for this Italian wine is 46.4- 50.0°F (8-10°C). The Pinot Bianco is delicate and refined, fresh, warm, and harmonious. This is a very successful wine from the usually so neutral Pinot Bianco. You can drink this Italian wine at 50-53.6°F (10-12°C).
COLLI ORIENTALI DEL FRIULI DOC Italian Wine
These Italian wines are made north of Udine. Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay will quickly be encountered among the white wines. These are pleasant wines but not especially exciting. They make a fine aperitif or for drinking with fish and the same is true to a lesser extent of the widely available Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, and Riesling Renano. These fresh and fruity Italian wines, with a hint of spice in the case of the Pinot Grigio, are better with a meal than as aperitif.
The Traminer Aromatico is very aromatic, extremely sensual, slightly harsh, and full bodied. This Italian wine is not suitable for drinking with fish, better with poultry, pork, or veal. The earlier wines are drunk at 46.4- 50.0°F (8-10°C), the later ones at 50-53.6°F (10-12°C).
This is unquestionably one of the best wine areas of Italy for white wines but the red too is of exceptionally high quality. The vineyards are sited on the hills (Collio) on the eastern side of the Judrio river, close to Gorizia. The ordinary Bianco is made from Ribolla Gialla, Malvasia Istriana, and Tocai Friulano, supplemented to a maximum of 20% as required with other local grapes. This Italian wine is golden in colour, slightly aromatic, dry, refined, delicate, and harmonious. It makes an excellent aperitif. Drink this aromatic Italian wine at 46.4- 50.0°F (8-10°C).
The Malvasia Istriana is pale gold, has a very fine and subtle nose, is smooth tasting and rounded with slight vegetal undertones. Drinking temperature for this Italian wine is 50-53.6°F (10-12°C).
The Collio Chardonnay is generally better than most other northern Italian Chardonnays. It is pale gold in colour, delicate, dry, full-bodied, has light floral notes, is smooth and very pleasant. Drink this Italian wine is 50-53.6°F (10-12°C).
This fairly small appellation of 330 hectares is spread across four communes: Collioure, Port-Vendres, Banyuls-sur-Mer, and Cerbere. Collioure is produced as rose, red, and white French wine, and is made with Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah. The red wines are very harmonious, full, warm, and fleshy, with aromas of ripe fruits, minerals, and exotic notes such as pepper, vanilla, and oriental spices.
There are also special cuvées, produced from ancient vineyards of which the ground is rocky, including igneous types. These Cuvées Vignes Rocheuses are highly concentrated. Red Collioure can be drunk in two manners: young and cool (12°C/53.6°F) , or mature and at cellar temperature (16°C/ 60.8°F) . Collioure red is one of France's top French wines.
The rather rarer rose is fresh, full-bodied , and extremely rich. Drink this French wine for a best taste at approx. 12°C (53.8°F).
The vineyards of this vin doux naturel are situated along the coast on terraces of shale. The vines grown on the 1,460 hectares of this appellation are mainly Grenache Noir, with some Carignan, Cinsault, Syrah and Mourvedre. The rich, warm, and powerful character of Banyuls comes from 50 to 75 per cent Grenache Noir. The soil here is extremely poor and rocky with a thin layer of earth that is washed away by each heavy thunderstorm. The work here is hard and much has to be done manually. The grapes ripen ideally in the strong sun so that they are extremely high in sugar when harvested.
The addition of alcohol to the must or mutage often occurs very early in the process, even before the grapes have been pressed. In common with Maury, the oxidation of the wine is the secret of Banyuls. The oxidation is encouraged by only partially filling the barrels or by leaving the French wine in the sun in large wicker-covered bottles to partially evaporate.
Countless different cuvees are blended by the winemaker according to the type of French wine desired. Some Banyuls (rimages) are not exposed to oxidation. Instead they are vinified to retain their fruity aromas. Depending on the type, Banyuls can be very fruity (red fruit, cherry), or possess aromas of roasted cocoa or coffee, and preserved and dried fruit (raisins, almond, other nuts, prune, fig) . Young fruity Banyuls (rimages) are drunk as an aperitif at approx. 12°C for a good French wine taste . Mature to very mature hors d'age is better drunk slightly warmer at between 14- 18°C (57.2- 64.4°F).
These superb jewels are only made in the years of the best vintages. They encompass and sublimate all the wonderful characteristics of Banyuls. A sip of this rich, intense wine is to sample paradise.
This Spanish wine region is wedged between those of Tarragona and Costers del Segre. The name ‘Conca’ in this case does not mean shell but combe or cwm, a valley surrounded by mountains. Conca de Barberá and its capital of Montblanc are bordered and protected by three mountain spines: Tallat in the north, Prades to the east, and Montsant to the south. Conca de Barberá’s soil is ideal for the production of the basic grapes for Cava. In recent years more money and time has been invested ii producing both rosé and red Spanish wines. J6WAGX3X62Z8
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