If you haven’t gotten all of your gifts yet, ummmm you might want to get that taken care of. I know, I know that’s why you’ve gone to the internet.
Knowing how often people go for wine as last minute gifts (which, loving wine like I do isn’t a bad thing) I thought I would give you a quick primer on some of the bubbly options. It’s also a bit of reminder that you don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune on a bottle of bubbly to get something that is delicious and will be well received.
Champagne – is a sparkling wine that is produced exclusively within the Champagne region of France. If it’s not produced in Champagne, it can not be called Champagne and is called sparkling wine. California is the biggest producer of sparkling wines and you may find that these taste very similar to those “true Champagnes.” This is no accident as many of the California producers of sparkling wines are owned by French champagne houses (for example: Moet & Chandon in Napa). This is one way that you can save some money when buying a bottle of bubbly.
Champagne has earned the reputation for being a luxurious indulgence because it was first consumed by French kings. The tradition then spread throughout Europe to other nobility as word spread of the sparkling wine being consumed by the royalty of France.
This trend has continued through the years because the Champagne producers have poured (pun intended) considerable efforts into their advertising and packaging to maintain the air of prestige.
There are three types of Champagne: Vintage (produced from a specific years grapes), Non-vintage (produced from a combination of harvest years and Rosé (which is pink in color).
Here are some of the designations you may find on the labels of champagne (or sparkling wine), hopefully this will help you when choosing a bottle.
Types of Champagne
- Blanc de Blancs – Means white of white and that the champagne is made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes. This is the lightest of the champagnes and pairs well with seafood.
- Blanc de Noir – Means white of black and that the champagne is produced from grapes with black or red skins but the interior of the grape is white. To keep the white color, the juice has minimal contact with the skins. This is a bit fuller in flavor and pairs well with a larger variety of foods.
- Rosé – Means the the grape juice has more contact with the skins of the black grapes to give it the rose colored hue or that the maker adds a bit of still pinot noir red wine to the clear sparkling wine. The most robust of the champagnes and can be consumed alone or with dinner (a large variety of foods).
- Brut Natural or Brut Zéro – Very dry.
- Extra Brut – The most common style of champagne, with no sweetness.
- Sec - Still dry, but with a slight hint of sweetness.
- Demi-Sec – Technically this is called half dry, which means the other half is sweet.
- Doux – This is the sweetest champagne you can get. Consider it a dessert wine.
The price point of champagnes runs from $30 to well over $200. Just because you spend a lot of money on a bottle, doesn’t necessarily mean that you are getting a better bottle of bubbly. The more expensive bottles tend to have more famous names and a bit more prestige. If you’re in a situation where you need to impress, then go for the more expensive bottle. My personal favorite, for all around giving is Moet & Chandon White Star (as seen in the photo above). It’s usually priced from in the mid $20 – mid $30 range and I have yet to find someone who doesn’t like drinking this.
Another option, which is much less costly (but just as delicious) is Prosecco. Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine that traditionally has a lighter body to it than champagne and is also fruiter tasting (but is still on the dry side). It is commonly used when making that yummy drink, the bellini. So if you’re gifting someone who likes to throw brunches, Prosecco would be a fantastic gift (and because it’s relatively inexpensive, you could gift them with a couple of different bottles).
Cava – Is a Spanish sparkling wine that is made in the same method as champagne. It too has a lighter body and fruiter flavor than champagne. Cava is another less expensive alternative to champagne. Cava bottles have similar sweetness designations as champagne. This makes buying a bottle a bit easier when trying to determine its sweetness. One of the most common Cava’s, in the United States, is Freixenet. You probably have seen this on many store shelves, it is the matte black bottle with the gold lettering.
Hopefully this little primer will help you with any of those last minute gifts you need to pick up. Or, use it as a head start for New Year’s Eve.