Name:Charles de Fère Blanc de Blanc NV
Grape: Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc & Ugni Blanc
Region: Loire Valley, France
Price: $7.99 to $9.99
Bright and bubbly with pretty lemon and apple fruit; not only was this sparkling wine delicious, it was also easy on the pocketbook!
A sparkling wine can be called Champagne, only if it is made in Champagne. This is because it is believed that the soil and climate of Champagne are unique from other regions in the world. The artisans of Champagne have banded together and have successfully protected their name. That said it is possible to find very good wines made in the traditional Champagne style outside of Champagne.
A wine made in the traditional style will say "mèthode champenois" on its label. This traditional method is fascinating. First the winemaker starts with a base wine, this wine undergoes the normal fermentation process then is bottled with what is called a liqueur de tirage, which is a blend of yeast, sugar and wine; this still wine is then corked with extra strong corks and metal cages. After a short period the liquer de tirage will cause the wine to start fermenting again, with CO2 bubbles as the bi-product, this is what gives bubbly the bubbles. Secondary fermentation will stop once all of the yeast has been consumed, though the process will leave behind a deposit of dead yeast cells.
To be rid of this sediment, the winemaker uses a process called riddling. Riddling is a process of slowly turning the bottles at a 45-degree angle until all the matter collects in the neck of the bottle; generally this is done with a special tray that holds the bottles at this angle or a mechanical "riddler". When the sediment is entirely in the collected neck of the bottle, the winemaker will then dip the neck into liquid CO2, thus freezing the small bit of dead yeast cells, she will then quickly turn the bottle over and take off the extra strong cap. The internal pressure of the champagne will force the frozen yeast plug out of the bottle and then the winemaker will quickly recap the Champagne. Et Voila, c'est Champagne, or Methode Champenois!
Jean-Louis Denoi, the proprietor of Charles de Fère winery is a 6th generation winemaker in Champagne. In fact the winery is located just outside the region of Champagne. Confident in his winemaking abilities, Jean-Louis sources fruit from outside the Champagne region in an effort to make excellent wines at a lower price. The Blanc de Blanc was exactly this, a delicious and pleasing wine. With excellent acidity, fruit and balance, it was hard to believe that it only cost $7.99!