New Year’s for many of us means champagne. Whether you are planning a quiet, private affair with a special person or a party with your 50 closest friends, champagne or another good sparkling wine will add zest to the festivities.
Champagne is the main sparkling wine of France, as Cava is of Spain, Spumanti of Italy and Sekt of Germany. The rest of the wine world refers to their bubbles as “sparkling wine.” Champagne, and all of the best sparkling wines, are made by a process called “methode champenoise.” The South African equivalent of this wine style is called Methode Cap Classique (MCC) .
This means that the bubbles are produced by a secondary fermentation in the bottle. The grapes are pressed and fermented, just like any other wine. Then the wine is bottled, sugar and yeast are added, and the bottle is capped. The carbon dioxide gas produced by the second fermentation has nowhere to go and dissolves into the wine.
A few tips: First get the sweetness of the wine you and your guests want. About 90 percent of sparklers are labeled as “Brut” this means dry. For a sweeter taste look for “Extra Dry.” I know that isn’t logical, but that’s the way it is. For a dessert style, try “Demi-Sec.”
Next, the proper serving temperature is about 45 degrees. Much as we associate the “pop” of the cork with sparkling wine, it is a mistake. You lose the bubbles that you have paid for. Open the bottle by loosening the cage (six turns) and place a cloth napkin over the top with the cage in place.
Hold the bottle with one hand around the napkin and cork and the other hand around the bottom of the bottle. Twist the bottom of the bottle and allow the pressure inside to slowly eject the cork.
Finally, pour the wine into flutes, straight down the middle. Don’t tilt the glass or you will lose the bubbles. When the mousse (foam) subsides, top off each glass. Hold the stem, look your friend in the eye, and say, “May your only pain be champagne!”
The Kumkani Infiniti is the ideal New Year’s bubbly. This wine is one of South Africa’s best MCC sparkling wines and recently won the best vintage prize at this year’s Wine Magazine and Amorim Cap Classique Challenge.