Wine time: Everything you really need to know about champagne

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Cath Muscat

‘Tis the season to crack bubbly but, where to start when you’re buying, serving and sipping?

Wine and Beverage Director at Lotus Dining, Annette Lacey shares her expertise and tips on how to choose the right champagnes and sparkling wines for special occasions.

What’s your favourite champagne or sparkling wine?

My favourite champagne is Krug. The first time I ever tried it, I had a moment where I suddenly understood everything about layers, textures and complexity.

How to choose the right champagne for Christmas?

Firstly, it depends on how much you want to spend. For Christmas, I always love something special. It’s the time to pick your favourite and spend a little extra. However, a good budget way is to make Aperol Spritzers or do something with your prosecco so that you can jazz it up. That way, people don’t care that it’s not champagne. It also depends on what you are eating. A fuller champagne style like a blanc de noir or a vintage that has a little bit of age goes beautifully with a traditional Christmas turkey. If you’re having seafood, go with a blanc de blanc which is 100% chardonnay, fresh and vibrant or, opt for a beautiful non-vintage.

“My advice is, don’t think too hard about it. You have to enjoy what you drink. That’s the main thing.”

Is there an obvious way to tell the difference between good and bad champagnes or sparkling wine?

Everything comes down to personal preference. Cheap isn’t always best. It’s very time consuming to make a high-quality sparkling wine so you are paying for the whole package. You get what you pay for.

Can you explain the key styles of white sparkling wine?

Champagne can only come from Champagne in France. The three most common varieties are chardonnay, pinot Noir and meunier. Champagne has strict laws and a minimum ageing requirement. Other French regions like Crémant d’Alsace, Crémant de Loire, Crémant de Bourgogne produce their own sparkling wine from their local grapes and with shorter ageing requirements.

Prosecco comes from Italy and is made totally different to champagne. It’s made in what’s called the tank method –  not matured in the bottle like champagne. Prosecco is never a complex style. It’s fun, easy to drink.

Cava comes from Spain is made in the champagne method in a local variety, so it’s not as tight and fresh but it’s half the price of champagne. You can get a good cava for $20 it’s dry and fully sparkling.

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