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Friday, December 14, 2012

Call it what it Is

Champagne and Sekt

What’s in a name?

I like my name.  Do you like your name?  How would you feel if someone (or many people) kept referring to you by a name other than your own?  I know I’d rather stick with being called by my own name and no one else’s.

Many people use the term “Champagne” liberally.  What do I mean?  Well, true sparkling wine from Champagne is “Champagne” - all the others are a different kind of sparkling wine; they’re not “Champagne.”  We hear the term “Champagne” used a lot at this time of year, with Christmas and New Year’s Eve coming up, and all kinds of holiday parties happening.

Sparkling Gaillac

I ask you - how often is real Champagne being served?  And please understand, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with serving or sipping other sparkling wines that aren’t from Champagne - in fact, there’s something wrong with snubbing the other sparklers, just because they’re not “true Champagne.”

How about Prosecco?  Or Cava?  Or Sekt?  Or New World sparkling wines?  Or those other cool sparkling wines from other parts of France, generally known as Cremant (from Alsace, Loire, Bourgogne, Limoux, Jura, etc.) - those can be some pretty awesome wines.  And most times, they’re far less expensive than true Champagne.

But calling a Prosecco or a Cava “Champagne” is doing a disservice to both true Champagne (since the real thing has to be from that specific region of France), and it’s also wrong to call those other sparklers anything other than what they are.  A good Prosecco, a good Cava, a good Sekt, a good Cremant - they deserve to be called by their proper names.

And it’s a good idea to know what it is you’re serving or sipping, too.  There are technically 7 different grapes permitted in the Champagne region, but those most commonly used are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.  In lots of other regions where sparkling wine is produced, those aren’t necessarily the same grapes they’re using.  Take Sekt for example - I’ve had a cool one from Mosel, called Deinhard Lila, and it’s made of Riesling.  Another exciting sparkling wine I’ve tried recently is from Sud-Ouest  (there’s a BIG surprise - not really) from Gaillac, Domaine du Moulin, and it’s made from Mauzac.  That’s quite different from true Champagne, isn’t it?  But it’s fun to try all kinds of sparkling wine, especially when we’re in a festive mood.  They tend to pair well with lots of foods and leave the palate feeling extra clean (but just because it’s trendy to pair sparkling wines with dessert doesn’t mean it’s a good idea - in fact I strongly advise against it).  And it’s fun also to know where each of the wines comes from.

So yes, Champagne is sparkling, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne.  And a story for another day - not all wine from Champagne is sparkling.  Some of it is “still” wine with no bubbles.  How about that?!

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