I have just returned from a fabulous 3 day Food & Wine Cruise on board the P&O’s Pacific Jewel where I shared wine and knowledge with guests. its a tough gig but someone has to do it. There were some points from my Champagne v’s Sparkling Talk that I said I would share, so here they are.
Champagne and Sparkling Terminology
- Baume-This is the sugar level of a grape, most sparkling base wines grapes are picked at 9-11º Baume, Compared to an Australian Shiraz at around 14º Baume
- Acid-Found naturally in many foods including grapes, it impacts on the feel of the wine in the mouth. During ripening as a sugar increases acid decreases.
- Harvest-Picking the grapes, this can be done by hand (more expensive) or machine.
- Blending- Most sparklings are blends of different varieties and vintages (years). This is a very important part of champagne production. The master blender is highly regarded in a Champagne House.
- Liqueur de Tirage- Following the first fermentation the wine is placed in a bottle with some yeast and sugar to commence the secondary fermentation that captures those fabulous bubbles.
- Bottle ageing on Lees- Lees are dead yeast cells leftover from the 2nd ferment and add yeasty creamy bready notes to a sparkling. Champagne can be aged for many years this way.
- Riddling- A method where the bottle is tipped towards the neck ready for removal of lees. Traditionally hand turned in racks these day done by machine.
- Disgorgement- The neck of the bottle is frozen, capturing the lees as a solid block, the bottle is then opened and the lees pop out under pressure.
- Dosage- is a top up to replace any wine lost during disgorgement. Depending on the desired style this top up wine may be sweeter or the same style as what is in the bottle.
How Dry is My Champagne
- Brut Nature – Sometimes seen in Australia as Zero Dosage, very dry and crisp 0-3 g/l Residual Sugar (RS)
- Extra Brut – 0-6 g/l RS
- Brut – 0-12 g/l RS
- Extra Dry – 12-17 g/l RS
- Dry – 17-32 g/l RS.More suited to being served with dessert
- Demi-Sec – 32-50 g/l RS. More suited to being served with dessert
- Doux – 50+ g/l RS. Not really seen much any more, this is very sweet
Virginia Jacobs is a wine educator who has shared the joys of wine with keen amateurs and budding professionals for many years. With a Masters of Wine Technology and Viticulture from Melbourne University, and more than a few tastings under her belt, Virginia will guide you in appreciating the wonders of wine.