New Year's Eve Champagne

December 30, 2011 2:48:31 PM PST
Champagne is the usual beverages of choice to ring in the New Year, but you may be surprised about how much there is to learn about the delicious bubbly.

Sara Fasolino is the Sommelier and Beverage Manager of Morton's the Steakhouse. She is here to help us decipher through all the different types of Champagnes and Sparkling Wines, and share her pairing suggestions as well.

All six Chicagoland Morton's The Steakhouses will be open late New Year's Eve, with available late seatings and their classic Morton's menu. All restaurants are also open New Year's Day!

Champagne Tips:

  • Champagne vs. Sparkling Wine: While many people call all sparkling wine Champagne, they're mistaken! To truly be labeled Champagne a sparkling wine must come from the Champagne region of France. All Champagne has to be made from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Sparkling wine is the correct term for all other bubbly that originates from regions other than Champagne, France. Vineyards in Italy, Spain, Australia, New Zealand and the US create wonderful sparkling wines. Each country has a different name for sparkling wine. Some examples include Prosecco, Cava and Sekt.

  • Brut vs. Extra Dry: Sweetness levels in sparkling wines and Champagne are determined by the "Dosage" (a mix of sugar syrup and wine), which is usually added after the second fermentation. Sparkling wines and Champagne vary in levels of sweetness from extra brut (driest) to doux (sweetest). However, brut is one of the most popular varieties and goes very well with food. Extra dry means it's sweeter and is usually blanc de blanc, meaning it's made with Chardonnay grapes.

  • Rose: Rose's are typically the most rare and expensive style that a producer has to offer. The reason most sparkling wines are white is that the grapes and their skins do not make contact in the crushing process. Rose sparkling wines actually take a portion of the wine and mix it with the skins. Rose varietals are actually the number one selling Champagne in France and number three worldwide.

  • Vintage vs. Non-Vintage: Most Champagne and sparkling wines are non-vintage. This simply means that it is made every year. Vintage wines, Dom Perignon being the most popular, are not made every year. Instead, they are made during years in which the environment is especially ideal. This usually only happens about three or four years out of 10, which is why vintage wines are more expensive.

  • Pairings: A general assumption, given that sparkling wines are so sweet, is that they pair best with foods like fruit, chocolate and cakes. However, because of the acidity they actually pair much better with salty, savory foods like seafood, appetizers and even a great steak.

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