Ten Things About Champagne

There are ten essential insights into the world of Champagne to prepare you for the upcoming Johannesburg Cap Classique, Champagne & Bubbles Festival, slated for May 17th and 18th at the Inanda Polo Club in Sandton.

  1. Protected Origins: Only wines crafted within the specific northeastern French region can bear the prestigious label “Champagne.” However, beyond geographical borders, stringent appellation laws govern everything from grape cultivation to winemaking techniques.
  2. Bubbly Alchemy: The hallmark bubbles in Champagne are a result of secondary fermentation that occurs within the bottle, a process known as méthode traditionnelle. This method involves adding yeast, wine, and sugar to the base wine, kickstarting fermentation and creating those effervescent bubbles.
  3. Grapes Galore: Champagne makers have a palette of seven grape varieties at their disposal. These include five white grapes and two red grapes, often blended in various combinations to create the desired flavour profile.
  4. Vintage vs. Non-Vintage: Non-vintage Champagnes blend grapes from multiple years to maintain consistency, while vintage Champagnes showcase the distinct characteristics of a single harvest, reserved for exceptional years.
  5. Aroma of Yeast: The characteristic bready aroma of many Champagnes comes from the lees, which are dead yeast cells that remain in contact with the wine during ageing. The duration of this contact is regulated by appellation laws, contributing to the wine’s complexity.
  6. Sweetness Spectrum: Sugar plays a crucial role in Champagne production, added at various stages to control sweetness levels. From bone-dry brut nature to sweet doux, Champagne’s sweetness varies widely to suit diverse palates.
  7. Handle with Care: Bottles of Champagne are pressurized to approximately double the pressure in car tyres. Opening a bottle safely requires a steady hand and the right technique to avoid spills or accidents, though adventurous souls may opt for sabrage.
  8. Preserve the Fizz: To extend the lifespan of an opened bottle, invest in a quality Champagne stopper and refrigerate it promptly. Proper storage can maintain the effervescence for several days.
  9. Perfect Pairings: Champagne’s acidity and versatility make it an excellent companion for a variety of dishes, from canapĂ©s to fried chicken. Its crisp, clean finish complements rich foods and provides a refreshing contrast.
  10. Glass Matters: While the traditional flute is iconic for serving Champagne, many enthusiasts prefer a quality white wine glass to enhance the wine’s aromas. The tulip glass offers a compromise between preserving bubbles and showcasing aromatics.

The Johannesburg Cap Classique, Champagne & Bubbles Festival promises an exciting array of bubbly experiences, featuring renowned producers like Taittinger and Veuve de Vernay, alongside many others. Tickets are available through Webtickets.

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