A bit of SPARKLE

A look inside the methods and qualities of our favourite glasses of fizz by Lauren Marriner

what makes Champagne, Champagne? Well, the wine can only come from the hilly French region of the same name and traditionally 3 local grapes are used; Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay blended together or used in isolation. It must also be made using the traditional method of fermentation to be crowned as ‘Champagne’.

The process of making Champagne allows the fermenting to take place inside the bottle for a long period of time – either for months or even a number of years. This is called Méthode Champenoise. During this time, the bottles are topped with crown caps, like those used on beer which help withstand the pressure that builds up inside the bottle during the process. Bottles are then placed slanting downwards so the yeast settles at the neck. Following this, the neck of the bottle is frozen so the yeast inside freezes. The ice forms a plug, so when the bottle is turned upright the yeast doesn’t fall into the wine all at once. Lastly, the crown cap is removed and the winemaker can top up the wine with either the same wine, a different blend or more sugar.

Champagne Bottles Glasses Fizz Sparkle
The UK is the biggest market for Champagne – according to the Champagne Bureau – 30.8 million bottles were shipped last year, followed by the US at 17.8 million.

There was a time that the only quality sparkling wine with any international reputation was Champagne, but times have changed. Now other European variations, the pride of their respective countries, have begun reaching the shelves of supermarkets, bars and restaurants. Sparkling wine (or Champagne), once the preserve of the upper classes, is now available to almost everyone. Though Champagne maintains its higher value status and remains the drink of choice for toasting and celebrating, the lower end of the market now offers some fabulous alternatives.

Cava uses different, local Spanish grapes, such as the Viura (also known as Macabeu), Xarel-lo, and Parellada. They use the same fermentation method as Champagne but because the process does not take place in the French region they call it instead, ‘Metodo Tradicional’ (Traditional Method). Unlike Champagne, Cava comes from a number of different regions in Spain; the most productive area being the north east of the country.

From Italy, Prosecco is another sparkling wine rapidly growing in popularity. It gets its name from the grape used to make it, but it can be blended with other grapes such as Bianchetta Trevigiana. Its bubbles come from being fermented in huge stainless steel pressurized tanks rather than in individual bottles making it less expensive to produce.

However, it looks like spirits will be the drink of choice over the Christmas period this year with gin and tonic being the most popular combination.

Glass Bottle Cork Champagne Fizz Gin

There are a few local manufacturers of gin in the area. In Bermondsey there is the company Jensen Gin founded in 2001 and run by Christian Jensen, producing ‘Bermondsey Dry’ gin amongst others.They are open to the public on Saturdays for tasting sessions and you can even arrange a distillery tour or take some friends for group tasting!

It seems that the area has some pedigree in gin-making; The Beefeater Distillery has been in Kennington since 1958. They produce another well-known ‘London Dry Gin’ – the recipe for which hasn’t changed since the 1800s.

Whatever your choice of tipple is this season and wherever it’s from – enjoy!

Also from this Edition:
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  • LOCANDA del Melo Fine Foods Deli on Long Lane opens its doors for restaurant dining too
  • A bit of SPARKLE A look inside the methods and qualities of our favourite glasses of fizz
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  • VISITING Clapham North Taking a walk through South London's 'village by the short hill'

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