They tickle your nose, and stimulate your palate. Too much imbibing and there's silly behaviour or at least a headache in store.
But that was our first half of WSET class tonight - bubbles, bubbles, and more bubbles!
We first looked at how bubbly wine is made - and basically there are three ways.
First is the traditional way - and this is how they make champagne. Grape juice is fermented and then the wine is blended (in Champagne, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) and placed in bottles where more yeast and sugar is added to begin a second fermentation. That is when the winemaker goes through the tedious job of turning or riddling the bottles (the 'remuage') a quarter turn every day. The sediment collects at the neck, the wine develops yeasty, bready characteristics, and then the neck is chilled and the yeast and sediment is ejected from the bottle and the bottles are topped up and that's it.
Second is the transfer method. The second fermentation happens like the traditional way but the wine is just dumped into a big tank and the yeast and sediment is filtered out. No need for riddling, but not quite as good as the traditional method.
Finally is the tank method where, basically, everything happens in giant tanks. This is how wines like Prosecco are made.
Which reminds me.... when we were in Rome, we spent a day doing a wonderful cooking course where our group prepared an appetizer, salad, pasta, main course and dessert. It was wonderful! I remember when we were eating, we had some Prosecco after the pasta. Our chef instructor said something like, "The reason we have Prosecco is to open up your stomach so that it can receive even more food." And it worked!
Our first two wines were a couple of sparkling wines.
The first was a Henkell Trocken - a very famous sparkling wine. It was clear lemon pale in colour and had a medium intensity on the nose with aromas of stone fruit such as pear as well as a floral aroma. On the palate, it had aggressive mousse. This means that the bubbles were quite strong - you really want them creamy rather than aggressive. Again, there were flavours of stone fruit and apple. It was off dry, had light body and medium plus acidity, and a medium minus finish. It was merely Acceptable, had 11.5% alcohol, and was $15.
The second was the real deal - Champagne. And not just some everyday fizzy plonk.... It was pale lemon and clear and had medium intensity on the nose with aromas of lime, grapefruit, biscuit , bread, lees and croissants(!). On the palate, it had similar tastes and also the desirable creamy mousse, was dry, had high acidity and medium minus body. It also had a medium plus finish. This was a Premiere Cru from Pierre Glimonnel et Fils, was a blanc de blanc (which means it was made of only Chardonnay), had high acidity and cost $80. I would rate this one Very Good.
I can appreciate the bready taste of champagne but I'm not sure that I really like it. That led to our next two wines, one a sparkling tank wine and one a more natural wine.