Thursday, August 18, 2011

How to Buy Champagne or Sparkling Wine

photo by Waldo Jaquith

Many people complain of headaches after one sip of Champagne, but this result can generally be averted by choosing the right bottle. Here's how to avoid those annoying champagne headaches.

First of all, the grapes selected to produce Champagne or Sparkling Wine are significant. They have a white juice, such as chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, but other varieties like moscato, prosecco, malvasia and brachetto are also used, though less commonly.

The Charmat Method of Production Causes Headaches

The Charmat Method of producing Sparkling Wine, also known as the Italian Method, Closed Tank Method or the Martinotti-Charmat Method, is named after Eugene Charmat. He wanted to develop a quick and cheap Champagne to be drunk soon after bottling instead of waiting years for it to mature, so he began by using large steel tanks.

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The wine is pressurized in the tanks to create carbonated bubbles. Later sugar is added to the yeast for a second fermentation in the vats, not in individual bottles like the method champenoise. According to food connoisseur Frank Redlich, it is the added sugar in the Charmat Method that causes headaches in those who consume it. Therefore, Champagne or Sparkling Wine not made with the Charmat Method should be superior.

French Champagne is Produced by the Champagne Method or M├ęthode Champenoise

The time honored, traditional way of fermenting Champagne was devised in the Champagne region of France. Only Champagne from this area of the world can legitimately be called Champagne, and bubbly from anywhere else in the world must go by the name of Sparkling Wine, though it is essentially the same thing.

With this method, the cuvee (wine) goes through a second fermentation in individual bottles and then a disgorgement where the necks are frozen, the bottle caps removed, and the dead yeast removed, which has collected in the necks of the bottles near the caps. The cuvee is then topped off with more Champagne and the bottles sealed with corks.

About Champagne and Sparkling Wine: Look For "Method Champenoise" on the Label

A Sparkling Wine created by an American winemaker can still lawfully note his use of France's traditional method of production on the label with the designation "Method Champenoise." The description will alert any astute buyer to the quality of the Sparkling Wine, which will usually be more expensive, but bargains can still be found at stores like Trader Joe's and Beverages and More, Inc.

Drinking Sparkling Wine made by the method champenoise is an effective way to avoid a Champagne headache. It may not cure every alcohol related headache, and some people find success against them by using a holistic, natural remedy of nasal spray made from hot peppers, but generally people can enjoy a headache-free glass of Sparkling Wine if the bottle has Method Champenoise written on the label.


Office of Champagne, USA

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