Min Kai from Bottles & Bottles
What do dinners, celebrations or even a get-together at home all have in common? A bottle of bubbly. As we live in a pretty warm climate, it doesn’t matter what the occasion is, we want to pop open a bottle of sparkling wine — or is it champagne?
Is there really a difference between champagne and sparkling wine? We spoke to our wine retailer on Frasers eStore Koh Min Kai (MK) from Bottles & Bottles, to share what the differences are, as well as simple tips for successful food pairings.
Read on for the full interview or watch the video here.
Q: What is the difference between champagne and sparkling wine?
MK: All champagnes are sparkling wines, BUT not all sparkling wines are champagne.
True champagne comes from the Champagne region in northern France, and can only take its name if it is produced there. In addition to the location, champagne also receives its distinguished name because of the grapes used to produce it. Champagne derives its distinct flavour from grapes which are grown in the region’s cooler climate and chalky, mineral-rich soils. Only a handful of grapes in the Champagne region are allowed to be used for its base or “cuvée” — a blend of the first and most concentrated extraction of juices from pressed grapes.
All other types of sparkling wine come from regions outside of Champagne, like prosecco from Italy and cava from Spain. There are also other sparkling wines from regions around the world, such as Australia or other French regions.
An interesting note — the bubbles in sparkling wines are achieved during a second fermentation — where a mixture of yeast and sugars are added to produce carbon dioxide.
Q: How are they different from red and white wine?
MK: Depending on the type of wine that's being made and grapes being used, the exact steps in the harvesting process will vary in time, technique and technology. But for the most part, every wine harvest includes these basic vine-to-wine steps:
The process of making champagne is complex, time-consuming, highly regulated, and dependent on factors that can only be achieved within this very region in order to create a very high-quality product.
The process in which champagne is made is called Méthode Traditionnelle. In a nutshell, champagne gets its sparkle from a second fermentation that takes place in the bottle, but the entire process is very technical and labour-intensive.
Grapes are first picked and fermented into still wine, then yeast and sugars are added to the cuvée to start the second fermentation as it is bottled. Over time, trapped CO2 gas carbonates the liquid to form the trademark bubbles while yeast cells start to die. The wine in the bottle is then aged for at least 15 months “on the lees” (with the dead yeast cells) to add texture and complexity. During this time, clarification occurs via a process known as riddling, which basically rotates the bottle slowly to capture the dead yeast cells at the neck before the yeast is removed through disgorgement, topped off with sugar and wine known as the dosage, then sealed.
The second fermentation process gives that yeasty character and crisp acidity that we all love.
Q: How different do they taste?
MK: Champagne, cava and prosecco are each produced using different grape varietals.
Champagne is made up of a blend of Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier and chardonnay, creating a fresh and fruity sip.
Cava contains a blend of Xarello, Parellada and Macabeo grapes, presenting fresh, zesty and floral notes.
Prosecco is made from Glera, a lighter-bodied grape that offers fragrant, floral aromas.
Some sparkling wines may have fruits other than grapes, such as apples, pears, citrus, strawberry, or even cream and vanilla flavours.
Q: What are some local hawker dishes that go well with them?
MK: A pro tip is to match the intensity of flavours, rather than sticking to the common rule of white meats with white wine, and red meats with red wines. There’s no right or wrong, and it’s really about what you enjoy with your meal!
The generous amount of sugar in local food means it will work well with less sweet wines, enhancing the array of spices. On the other hand, a glass of slightly sweet wine with a richer mouthfeel can better handle the spice and heat.
Try pairing the champagnes with Satay or Wanton Noodles.
The savoury and flavourful grilled satay goes well with the rich rosé champagne, like the Champagne Brut Rose Premier Cru. The nose is complex, with a hint of strawberries and walnut flavours, which complements the well-marinated satay dipped in peanut sauce. It also has an excellent acidity that cuts through the oiliness of the dish.
For wanton noodles, the champagne’s flavours of melon, redcurrant and a touch of violet candies go hand in hand with the deep flavours of the char siew meat and dark sauces used to dress the noodles.
What other types of wine do Bottles & Bottles carry?
Known for their evolving range of wines, Bottles & Bottles offers a vast, international selection to Singapore’s dynamic palate, ranging from accessible to premium, common to lesser-known varietals as well as New World to Old World alongside their exclusives.
As Michael Broadbent MW, renowned British wine critic said — "Drinking good wine with good food in good company is one of life's most civilized pleasures."
Check out Bottles & Bottles on Frasers eStore, and order a bottle for yourself today!