The Art Of Champagne Tasting

the-art-of-champagne-tastingTasting champagne or a similar sparkling wine is an experience involving all of the senses. Champagne is actually the name of a sparkling wine from that delimited region of France using certain grape combinations.

Champagne from this region of France is blended from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay grapes. The red Pinot Noir skins are not left in the mix long enough to color the wine. The different amounts of each grape variety blended into the wine is the decision of the winemaker.

The bubbly wine is developed over a minimum of 15 months using a special process to age it before it is finally put in bottles, corked and sent to the market for sale. If you are fortunate to taste this carefully designed wine, there are several things to note:

Sight

Your eyesight is the first sense that is used in examining the champagne. Look for a gold to light straw yellow color. The liquid should be clear with bubbles cascading as it is poured into a glass.

Pouring champagne is an art form for the person who pours. The uncorked bottle should be wrapped at the neck with a serviette (napkin) and the liquid poured onto the side of a gently angled glass. Tubular glasses are recommended. Watching this event that takes only seconds is part of the tasting process.

Sound

Hearing the cork pop followed by a gentle hissing indicates that there are tiny bubbles waiting to be released along with the carbon dioxide gas. Those bubbles should make a slight fizzing sound as the liquid is poured into the glass.

Odor

Inhale the odor of the wine before you drink it. This is recommended for most wines, even if they are not the sparkling variety. The nose or smell is delicate with a slight woodsy, spicy or floral odor.

Smelling wine and other beverages is part of the tasting process. Champagne’s special delicate odors change while the wine is exposed to air in the glass. This is according to champagne experts who judge wines. The bubbly should be allowed to stay in the glass for a minute or two before it is consumed.

Touch and taste

Holding the glass by the stem is another part of the experience. You can also touch the bottle to feel how cold it is. Champagne and sparkling wine should be served chilled at a temperature of 46.5-50 degrees F or 8-10 degrees C.

Taste is the final part of the experience. This is not a product to be gulped down like a soda drink. It is to be sipped to fully appreciate the feel of the bubbles and the delicate taste of the wine.

Professional wine tasters look for a sharpness, intensity and fruity richness in the flavor. Bubbles should “explode” in the mouth with an acidic sharpness, according to the experts. Everyone else can simply enjoy the pleasant flavor of the blend.

Other sparkling wines

Champagne is not actually a generic name although it is sometimes used to indicate high quality in a product.

California winemakers in the Napa and Sonoma valleys follow the same procedures used in France to produce outstanding sparkling wines. They may use different grape combinations and they do not advertise their sparkling wines as champagne. Other wine producing states and countries follow the same rules under international treaties and agreements. Prosecco is a sparkling wine from Italy and Cava comes from Spain. Both sparkling wines are tasted in the same way as French champagne.

Regardless of where you taste sparkling wines, enjoy and toast the winemaker who created the vintage.

The Most Expensive Champagnes in the World

the-most-expensive-champagne-in-the-world

Champagne has become something that is enjoyed by pretty much everyone at least sometimes, but there are still types out there that evoke the incredible expense that it used to signify. We may not all be able to taste these vintages ourselves, but we can live vicariously through those who are lucky enough to have a glass or bottle of these following champagnes:

Dom Pérignon ($1,950) is a well known name throughout the world, and the remaining bottles of this vintage sell for an ever-increased sum as their numbers decrease. Moët et Chandon has in fact made a name for itself as a premier champagne house largely on the strength of this vintage.

Krug Clos d’Ambonnay ($3,500) manufactured with red wine grapes, Krug’s foremost product is a sublime and masterful example of champagne which demonstrates ably why Krug is such a respected name in the champagne world.

Perrier Jouët Champagne ($6,485) is a sparkling wine made with the very best grapes the Perrier Jouët house can grow, and it is clear when tasting this why such a degree of discernment is warranted. These bottles are sold in groups of twelve, so you won’t run out too quickly.

The Champagne Cristal Brut 1990 ($17,625) was only ever produced in limited quantities, and when you combine rarity with quality you get a price tag like this one. This is an elegant and memorable vintage well worth the wait and the cost.

Krug 1928 ($21,000) is Krug’s second entry on this list, and a bottle sold for $21,000 at auction in 2008. The grapes used were grown in 1926, and the first bottle was manufactured in 1938, making this a very old sparkling wine that has justified its cost with a tremendous and widely-lauded pedigree.

Dom Pérignon White Gold Jeroboam ($40,000) marks the other champagne house with two entries on this list. At over twenty times the cost of ‘ordinary’ Dom Pérignon, White Gold Jeroboam is a masterwork of delicate sparkling wine and wholly deserves its royal appellation.

Pernod Ricard Perrier Jouët ($50,000) comes in a set of twelve bottles, and a variety of liquors have been used, allowing you to choose one that most suits your taste. These liquors are both exotic and of the highest quality, combining with some of the finest grapes France has ever grown for a truly spectacular champagne.

Fifty thousand US dollars is a huge sum, even for twelve bottles of champagne. So would you believe that the most expensive item on this list does not come in a set of twelve, but that the price represents one single bottle? Here is the most expensive champagne in the world and, as far as we can tell, in all of history.

Shipwrecked 1907 Heidsieck ($275,000) is by far the most expensive champagne in the world. In 1916 a considerable shipment of this champagne was sent via sea from France to Russia, intended for the Imperial Court. The ship carrying this shipment was sunk by a German U-boat, however, and it lay at the bottom of the icy Baltic for over eighty years, until being discovered in 1998. Astonishingly, many of the bottles survived intact, and unsurprisingly this extraordinarily rare vintage commands a tremendous price tag, but all accounts suggest the quality of the wine justifies it.

The champagne world is always evolving however, and who knows what will be released, or even discovered, in the future? We’re always keeping an eye out for new rare and expensive champagnes.