New Year's Eve is coming. Break out the "bubbly."
Champagne, sparkling wine or semisparkling wine is the traditional toast at midnight. There are a lot of options, from all over the world — including from Southern Oregon wineries.
Strictly speaking, for a wine to be labeled "Champagne," it has to come from the Champagne region of northeast France and made by the "methode Champenoise" or "methode traditionelle." Champagne traditionally is made from pinot noir, chardonnay or pinot meunier grapes.
"Methode Champenoise" or "methode traditionelle" indicates that the wine is first fermented in vats or barrels and then undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle, with the addition of sugar and yeast to develop natural carbon dioxide for its fizz. After the second fermentation, the bottle is manipulated so the sediment ("lees") settles in the neck and is then frozen. The temporary cap on the bottle is removed, the sediment is blown out by the bottle's carbon dioxide, and the bottle is quickly corked and wired down with the familiar cap to keep the rest of the carbon dioxide in the wine.
Sparkling wines all over the world, using the traditional Champagne grape varieties as well as others, are made by this method. However, as determined by international trade treaties, they can't be called "Champagne." (Oregon law specifically forbids the use of the term "Champagne" for its sparkling wine as of 2006.) Spain has its "cava." Italy has "spumante," "Asti" and "Prosecco" (depending on the type of grapes used in the wine). Germany has "sekt." Even the French Champagne producers transplanted to California, like Roederer or Domaine Chandon, must label their product "sparkling wine."
Sparkling wine is available as "blanc de blanc," made entirely from white grapes, "blanc de noir," made from red grapes separated from the skins before fermentation, and "rose," made from red grapes allowed to ferment for a time with the skins to add color. Sparkling wine also is labeled to show the amount of residual sugar in the wine. "Extra brut" is the driest.
Next comes "brut," "sec," "demi-sec" and "doux." Typically, "brut" has less than 1.5 percent sugar with "doux" having 5 percent.
Semisparkling wines have some fizz to them but not the pronounced "bubbles" of sparkling wine. They are not made using a double fermentation, and their carbon dioxide develops from sugar and yeast in the fruit during the initial fermentation before bottling.
Southern Oregon wineries have some good choices to toast the beginning of 2014 with local bubbly.
Wooldridge Creek has its 2011 Sparkling Brut ($37), a blanc de blanc initially barrel-aged in French oak. Troon has their 2007 CJ Cuvee, touted as made by "methode traditionelle" ($45).
John Michael Champagne Cellars labels its wines as "sparkling wines" even with "Champagne" in the winery name. (The winery was started before 2006.) The winery carries a full range of styles: blanc de blanc ($50), blanc de noir ($25), classic cuvee ($40), rouge ($40) and even a sparkling sake ($25).
Among the semisparkling choices are South Stage Cellars Semi-Sparkling Early Muscat ($21), Del Rio 2012 Rose Jolee ($15) made from a blend of early muscat and riesling, Cuckoo's Nest Fizze ($15), made from early muscat, and Belle Fiore's 2012 Muscat Canelli ($21). Troon also has a semisparkling white ($19).
Whatever your preference in wine for New Year's Eve, have a safe and happy celebration!
Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at email@example.com.