Do Champagne Bubbles Add Flavour?
It’s an interesting day when both The Guardian and the BBC run stories on champagne – and I wonder if it is coincidental that it is the same day that Gordon Brown is to address the Labour Party conference in Brighton? Maybe Andrew Marr will suggest that the Prime Minister should take a leaf out of Winston Churchill’s leadership tactics and look to champagne for sustenance – now he has confirmed he does not rely on any prescription pills?!
No but seriously. We all know champagne is uplifting – hence why it is the perfect drink for celebration and also why it can help alleviate black dog on our darker days. There are an awful lot of aromas in a glass of champagne – lovely toasty and vanilla overtones all helped from lengthy bottle age (where the bottles age in the cellars in France before having the sediment removed via the disgorgement process) – as well as all the complexities of the grape blend. To my mind, gentler bubbles (again substantially a feature of spending longer ageing in bottle) certainly help the drinker enjoy and experience the range of flavours the wine offers. I have covered before how our producers insist on a minimum 3 years age in bottle in the cellars for their non-vintage, as opposed to the legal minimum of 15 months.
I have always suspected that the champagne mousse (bubbles) exacerbate the underlying flavours and this so because all those bubbles have actually been formed in the bottle right at the start of the bottling process when the yeast were alive and feasting on the sugar in the raw blended wine. It is this process – the second fermentation in bottle – that is the absolutely unique invention of the Champenois and thus why this technique of adding the fizz to sparkling wine was known as “Champagne Method” or “Methode Champenois”, before EU legislation (and protection of the Champagne Appellation) forbade it.
This area is a hoary chestnut – perfect to touch on as the conker season is in full throw; mine’s a fourer…