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It's bubbly season again (but when isn't it, really, amirite?!), which means I'm back on call, answering all your questions about sparkling wine. Should you find yourself at a holiday party in the next few weeks, I hope you'll find a glass of something bubbly in your hand, and that all your conversations will be sparkling. But if you’re having trouble mingling, I have some ice breakers for you.
Below are just a few of the many interesting facts about sparkling wine. All you have to do is walk up to someone with a sparkling glass in their hand, pepper in a few of these facts, and soon you’ll be dazzling the crowd with your effervescent personality.
And for answers to your most-asked bubbly questions every year—on storing, serving, label terms, what to do with leftovers (invite me over!)—here's our previous roundup.
• The term “Champagne” was supposed to be protected by the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, which stipulated that only wines made in France's Champagne region could be referred to as "Champagne." But the U.S. never actually ratified the treaty, so it wasn’t until 2006 when the U.S. and the European Union signed a trade agreement that we agreed to not use certain terms that are considered “semi-generic” like "Champagne," "Burgundy," "Chablis" and "Port." However, some producers, like Korbel, have been grandfathered in and still use the term on labels of sparkling wine that are not from Champagne.
• Champagne is made from any combination of three grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. A blanc de blancs is made from 100 percent white grapes, while a blanc de noirs, which can range in color from a deeper yellow-gold to pink, is a sparkler made entirely from red grapes.
• If a bottle of bubbly doesn’t have a vintage date on it, it’s called “non-vintage” or "NV." NV sparkling wines are very common, giving winemakers flexibility in their blends (which is especially helpful in tricky years), but moreover, it helps create a consistent house style.
• Sparkling bottles are traditionally thicker than bottles for other wine types because the pressure inside a bottle of bubbly is around 70 to 90 pounds per square inch—three times that of a typical car tire!
• The fastest way to chill a bottle of bubbly is to submerge it in a combination of ice, water and salt, which works faster than just cold air or even just ice. Rotate the bottle a few times to keep the salty ice solution flowing around the bottle, and it should be ready to go in about 15 minutes.
• Sparkling wine’s bubbles are formed at “nucleation sites,” or tiny surface imperfections in the glass. Some sparkling wineglass manufacturers etch extra nucleation sites into the base of Champagne flutes for continuous bubble formation.
Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.