Wine: Starry, starry night

Champagne is the ultimate way to usher in the new year.

champagne 88 (photo credit: )
champagne 88
(photo credit: )
I'm drinking stars," said Benedictine monk Dom Perignon when he first tasted champagne.Some say he expressed this remark not out of joy but rather from disappointment, as the wine he tasted was bubbly. Made from a blend of grapes such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, champagne's magic comes as much from its bubbles as from its taste. The wine has its origins in the Champagne region of France, and it owes its sparkle to the bubbles formed during a second fermentation process. The traditional way of making sparkling wine starts with the grape harvest, which is always early in the season compared to the picking of table wines. Picking early ensures that the sugars are relatively low, which in turn keeps the alcohol low; secondary fermentation will boost the alcohol content later. All wines that undergo a second fermentation are sparkling, such as Cava, Sekt and Spumanti, but unless they grow in the vineyards of Champagne, France, they cannot use the name champagne. With New Year celebrations coming in few days, a few simple tips on serving sparkling wine should be all you need to get the party started. Quick Cooling of Sparkling Wines To serve a sparkling wine you will need to chill it properly by refrigerating the bottle for three hours before opening. But if you just bought it and it is at room temperature you can cool it down quickly by filling a sink with enough ice and water to cover the bottle. Don't use ice alone. The presence of water is necessary for quick cooling. Lay the bottle in the iced water and twirl it for two to four minutes or let it stand for about 10 minutes. Put it in the refrigerator if you will be serving it later. Glassware There's nothing more festive than a glass full of bubbles. Sparkling wines are drunk as much for their appearance as their taste. The proper glass can emphasize the bubbles of any sparkling wine. The goal is a clear, totally dry, glass. White wine glasses will do, but a fluted glass is worth the investment as it encourages the bubbles to collect and rise to the top. Wipe the glasses with a dry cloth before serving and make sure they are totally dry. Water ruins the visual effect of sparkling wines. And don't chill the glasses. They will fog up and cloud the view. Removing the cork When removing a cork from a bottle of sparkling wine be aware that the cork might shoot out like a bullet, so watch where you point the bottle. The key to elegant cork removal is to wrap the cork with a towel and twist the bottle, not the cork. One can usually feel the cork coming free. Try to ease the cork out at the last second so the "pop" impact can be controlled - to the delight of all the lookers-on. Resealing the bottle If properly resealed, most sparkling wines will retain their fizz for approximately 12 hours, so the bottle you opened at the party will still be good the next morning. No matter how hard you try to reseal a sparking wine with a conventional cork, by morning the carbonation will have forced it out of the bottle and you will be left with a wine without bubbles! The only way to avoid the flat, morning-after blues is to reseal with a special champagne cork (available at wine stores) made of metal with a spring and special lip to grip the rim of the bottle. For the upcoming celebrations of the end of 2006, a variety of sparkling wines and champagnes are offered at the local stores: The Golan Heights winery has launched Yarden Blanc de Blanc 2000. This sparkling wine is made by carefully following the traditional champagne production method, resulting in an excellent wine! It is fresh and light, with typical yeasty aromas, rounded fruit characters, and well-balanced acidity. NIS 105 (kosher). Xenius Cava Reserva Brut. Spicy and crisp with floral flavors, this is a bright and refreshing sparkling wine from Covides, Spain. NIS 58 (not kosher). Charles Heidsieck Reserve Champagne has seductive toast, coffee and hazelnut aromas and flavors; intense yet graceful, with balance and a long aftertaste. NIS 370 (not kosher). Codorn u Cuv e Ravent s Cava is an excellent quality dry sparkling wine with rich and toasty fresh flavour. NIS 108 (not kosher). Rondel Extreme Brut, a sparkling wine with enticing aromas of green apple and citrus, is good value for money at NIS 55 (not kosher). n