Champagne and sparkling wine is for all seasons, not just for Christmas or New Year celebration
The world of wine is vast and offers its lovers unrivalled enjoyment. Of all the great wines, good old bubbly is undoubtedly the most celebrated. With champagne consumption at its all-time high in the UK, Dom Perignon, Bolinger, Krug, Louis Roederer, Laurent Perrier, Charles Heidsieck, Philipponnant and Moet & Chandon â€“ just to name a few â€“ do touch a cord not only with the connoisseurs and cognoscenti, but also with the occasional champagne drinker.
Sport, fashion, film, music and politicians have an intimate association with champagne. In the UK, Sir Winston Churchill was one of the many illustrious champagne lovers. Sir Winston drank Pol Roger and the winery even named a champagne after him. A bottle of Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill, made only in the very top years, currently retails around Â£100. And do you recall Sean Connery picking up a bottle of Dom Perignon 1953 and later rummaging around the fridge for another bottle in Goldfinger?
Champagne comes from the Champagne region in the north-east of France, about 160 km east of Paris. The main grapes used in the making of champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Vintage champagnes are declared in the best years when the wine maker, or chef de cave, decides that the grapes are better than average. Vintage champagnes must be aged for 3 years prior to their release. Non-vintage champagnes, which make up 80 percent of those produced, are blends of 2 or more years.
Until recently the big champagne houses had a control over the supply of grapes, hence production. But the tide of this is now changing, as some of those who once supplied the big champagne makers are now setting up on their own and produce and sell the end products. Coupled with the increase in world demand, this trend has resulted in a healthy competition between the well-known names and the less-known producers. Some of the latter, and some of the supermarketsâ€™ own labels, offer excellent quality and good value for money. So be on the lookout for these.
Champagne comes in bottles of the following sizes:
Half equivalent of Â½ bottle 37.5cl
Magnum equivalent of 2 bottles 150cl
Jeroboam equivalent of 4 bottles 300cl
Methuselah equivalent of 8 bottles 600cl
Salamanzar equivalent of 12 bottles 900cl
Balthazar equivalent of 16 bottles 1200cl
Nabuchadnezzar equivalent of 20 bottles 1500cl
Match the size of the bottle to the occasion â€“ but plan ahead and be prepared to wait a month or so for the less regular sizes.
Fizz produced outside the Champagne region, even if the method of making is identical, cannot be called champagne. Relegation to second league, however, is often deceptive. There is certainly a great deal of sparkling wine out there to be enjoyed, some of which challenge even the well-established household champagne names. So, if you are not label conscious, or even if you are, why not try a bottle of Dom Vincent Blanc or Rose NV from Burgundy, Majella Sparkling Shiraz from Australia, Chateau Vincent Extra Brut 2000 from Hungary, or Brut NV Franciacorta DOCG from Ome, Italy for a change. You will not be disappointed.