Our Martin Gives an Insiders Guide to Champagne & Fizz
By Martin Isark
If fizz is on your must buy list this Christmas… then my champagne & fizz jargon demystified… is a must read:
CHAMPAGNE & FIZZ JARGON DEMYSTIFIED:
NON VINTAGE (NV) CHAMPAGNE
This is a blend of wines from several different years, and must be aged for 15 months. Quality producers like Bollinger will bottle age for much longer.
NV SPARKLING WINES
These are from lesser vintages. Ageing requirements vary with the region but will not be as long as champagne.
This is a blend of champagnes from just one year, and must be aged for a minimum 3 years. Prestige brands, like Krug, will bottle age for up to eleven years. The same requirements apply to vintage sparkling wines but they are generally aged for a shorter time.
BLANC DE BLANCS
This is white champagne produced from white grapes only. It has a more elegant and delicate style than regular champagne, which is mostly a blend of both white and black grapes.
BLANC DE NOIRS
This is white champagne produced from just black grapes. The taste is softer and more rounded than that of Blanc de Blancs.
The rosé colour is obtained either by adding a small amount of red wine or by leaving the pressed grape juice in contact with the black grape skins, methods used throughout both the sparkling wine and champagne industry. Although this colour addition tends to produce a softer-tasting fizz, it can often overpower the deliciously subtle flavours. Few drinkers care, though. After all, rosé, and especially champagne, with its seductive bubbles, always hits that romantic spot.
No sugar added at dosage – driest of the dry. If your palate is in tune 90% Cocoa chocolate, lemons and cooking apples then BRUT NATURAL is worth a punt – otherwise leave it on the shelf.
Very dry – still too dry for most drinker s’ palates.
BRUT (SOMETIMES LABELLED SEC)
Dry – the UK’s most popular style for champagne and sparkling wines.
DEMI-SEC & RICH
Off dry – less popular, even though it is much better with wedding cake.
Apart from Asti, it is rare to find a sweet fizz on our shelves.
TRADITIONAL METHOD/METHODE TRADITIONNELLE/CRÉMANT
The second fermentation in all sparkling wines or champagnes labelled such has taken place in the bottle rather than in a big sealed tank or by some other cheap bubble creating method. Crémant is a confusing term. It was once the name applied to a less sparkling fizz, but now is only properly used for a sparkling wines and champagnes made by this method.
SUSTAIN THAT FIZZ
Remember that bubbles enhance the wine’s flavour. Pour flat fizz away. It will disappoint. Do not shake the bottle before opening it. Remove the cork slowly by pulling and twisting it anti-clockwise. Then pour into clean fluted glasses that are free from washing up detergent, as any residue will kill the life of the streaming bubbles. Generally, the better the champagne, the smaller the bubbles and the longer they last in the glass.
Most of champagne’s flavour comes from its bottle maturation so be prepared to taste notes of apples, red fruits, brioche, nuts and dried fruits. There’ll be similar flavours in the Old World sparklers, with the exception of fizz produced from the heady Muscat grape (Asti, for example.) You’ll find riper fruit flavours in New World sparklers and the taste will be more rounded and slightly sweeter than champagne.
Want more helpful tasting notes on champagne? Download the Can I Eat It? app