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Champagne versus sparkling wine

by Lisa Johnston, from Winemuse
Hands up …. who would like to be included in research into how Champagne makes you smarter? It involves having to drink Champagne…. Get in line! Me first!!!
 Recently, the biochemistry researchers at Reading University, UK informed the world via the Metro UK that ‘a healthy dose of bubbly can help against brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.’ Of course, more research has been called for, though, I confess that I have felt this for a long time. I always feel smarter after a glass of bubbles, but to be totally honest – that really is the ‘bubbles’ talking.
 OK. So, according to the research it seems that Champagne improves your memory effectiveness, not your ‘smarts’ as such. However interestingly, in the same article it referred to our topic last month on the health benefits of red wine. This team say that Champagne can be as good for the heart as red wine. Possibly because it is made from a blend of red and white grapes to start with.
 Still, I would love to be on that particular research panel!
 What cannot be disputed though, is the fact that the pop of the cork brings a smile to the faces around you. This is because the Champagne houses have, for well over a century, invested a lot of effort into creating the association between Champagne and celebration. Whether it be celebrating a wedding or a birth, recognition of an achievement big or small, there is usually cork popping bubbles involved.
 Would we go ooh! aah! if the winner of the Grand Prix sprayed Pepsi everywhere, or celebrated with a nice cup of Earl Grey in a gilded tea cup? I don’t think so!
 And so with the strength of the Aussie Dollar, there is more imported sparkling wines such as Champagne, cava and Italian prosecco on our shelves and on our wine lists.  Whereas in the past, Champagne has been out of reach for most of us, good Champagne can now be bought for less than $40 and if you know where & when to look less than $35.


What’s the difference between Champagne and Australian Sparkling?champagne-flute2wm

The answer is simple enough but is ever so much more complicated than a few words.  The only wine that can be called Champagne legally is one that is sourced and created in the French region of Champagne. While a wine that is made from exactly the same grape varieties, using the exact same techniques but made in Australia is labelled Sparkling wine.
 And while they rarely taste the same, there is as much joy to be found in the fine bubbles of Australian Sparkling as there is in a glass of Champers. In fact, some people do not like Champagne and prefer the often fuller flavours of an Aussie alternative.  The choice is yours – but here are half a dozen recommendations just for you:

 Bubbles for those special occasions

 Ayala NV Brut Majeur ($85) – One of the most stylish Champagnes on the market.  It has pretty ripe apple & floral characters with a hint of smoky almond brioche.  Generously lush with powerful elegance & length.
 Gosset NV Grande Reserve  ($90) – This is a Champagne that resonates with that ‘silk over muscle’ type elegance.  It is generously proportioned with rich plush berry fruit overlying some nutty almond biscuit.  Refreshing, creamy & mouth-filling.  Also look for the gorgeous Gosset Grand Rosé.
 Henschke NV Lenswood Blanc de Noir ($50) – Fresh berry fruit with nutty brioche served with cream sits almost lightly in the mouth with a luxurious intensity. The long dry finish is complex & satisfying making it a fizz that is perfect just by itself or would work well with some delicate seafood.
 NV Grant Burge Pinot Noir Chardonnay Sparkling ($26) – A quality sparkling with baked apples, citrus, stone fruit and brioche flavours and just a touch of nuttiness. It is all that you can ask for in a good fizz – crisp and refreshing yet still has that characteristic creamy texture.

Not like Champagne –

Chrismont La Zona Prosecco ($22) – is a riper style which offers up floral, green apple aromas with that slight almond on the palate.  It finishes crisp, dry & long. It certainly delivers big for $22.

Bubbles on the sweeter side –

 Woodstock 2012 Little Miss Collett Moscato  ($18) – The palest of pink colour has come from the merest stain of cabernet sauvignon. Little Miss Collett has all the hallmarks of an Aussie moscato – it is sweet & grapey with some musk and talc and at only 5.5% alcohol level you can feel confident to have more than a glass.

Tips for staving off the bubbles cravings when you’re not drinking :

 When everyone else has a glass of bubbles in their hand, it is really hard to stick to your decision not to have a glass too. Whether you are the designated driver or you are eligible to drive around with a ‘baby-on-board’ sign on your car. Here are some tricks I used to get through 18 months of not drinking alcohol.
 1.     Grab a champagne flute and fill it with your beverage-du-jour. Have a few options on hand, particularly at a party, so that you don’t get bored. Don’t rely on your host/ess to have your favourites on hand, make sure you take what you want to drink with you.
 2.     Try topping soda water with cranberry juice or one of the gorgeous cordial blends that are now available.  My favourite is elderflower or try to find an elderflower presse. This way you get the bubbles without the alcohol.
 3.     So, everyone has bubbles – buck the trend and go for a virgin cocktail complete with as much garish garnish as you can stand. Dinky umbrellas, chunks of pineapple with cherries on a toothpick in the funkiest glass you can find– go for it.

About Lisa Johnston

Lisa has an infectious enthusiasm for all things vinous. She is a wine educator, writer and wine business consultant who has a fascination for the ever changing nature of wine and the wine experience – in the vineyard, in the bottle and in the glass. An avid wine traveller, her plan is to visit every wine region in the world. She is also renowned for unrepentantly insisting that wine is opened at playdates – for the adults only, of course! www.winemuse.com.au fb: /wine muse twitter: @thewinemuse gplus.to/LisaJohnston pinterest: Wine Muse instagram: thewinemuse

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