When it comes to sparkling wines, it is all about the bubbles … literally! The bubbles are referred to as the mousse of the sparkling wine and they will give you a clue as to whether the wine is Champagne or Methode Cap Classique (MCC) or just a sparged sparkling wine.
If the bubbles in your glass start off almost invisible and then gradually expand until they reach the surface (similar to beer), then chances are the sparkling wine in question would have been bottle matured with little extra yeast and sugar to make the bubbles. This means that the bottle would either be a Chamapagne, but then only if it originates in Champagne in France, or the South African equivalent – Methode Cap Classique or MCC.
If the bubbles are all uniform, similar to what is found in carbonated soft drinks, the chances are that it was sparged. Sparged? A term used to distinguish sparkling wines that were literally just carbonated. The wine is placed in large tank and then carbon dioxide is injected into the wine under pressure.
The Champagne or MCC South African equivalent is created by a lengthy and meticulous process. It all begins with a base wine, usually chardonnay or pinot noir blend, that is then bottled with an addition of yeast and a little sugar for a secondary fermentation. These bottles are crown capped with a closure similar to beer caps and placed on riddling racks (special shelves with holes for the neck of the bottle). The extra yeast goes to work to create the magical bubbles for the first three weeks and then die. The sediment of the dead yeast particles, the lees, adds a delicious biscuit type characteristic to the wine for the remainder of the two years of bottle maturation.
After aging, the bottle is manipulated, either manually or mechanically, in a process called “remuage”, so that the lees settles in the neck of the bottle. This process requires the bottles to be rotated ever so slightly each day in the riddling rack. After chilling the bottles, the neck is frozen, and the cap removed. The pressure in the bottle forces out the ice containing the lees, and the bottle is quickly corked to maintain the carbon dioxide in the wine.
Which is better? The answer…It all depends on the occasion. MCCs or Champagnes fetch much higher prices due to the labour intensive and meticulous process endured to create them. These wines are reserved for very special and decadent occasions. The spurged sparkling wine is usually cheaper and appreciated on a more relaxed occasion.
For both types of sparkling wine, the base wine is truly a fundamental component that will heavily influence the final product. At Boucheron we make sure to select the finest of both styles and carry Methode Cap Calssique, imported Champagnes and sparkling wines.