As midnight prepares to strike on the aughts, many will mark the moment with a flute full of the bubbly. Champagne, prosecco, asti — whatever you call your sparkling wine, that’s the sip of the moment every Dec. 31/Jan. 1. Champagne is a region in France where some of the world’s best sparkling wine is produced. Thanks to the Treaty of Madrid, then the Treaty of Versailles, a bottle of sparkling wine isn’t supposed to be labeled champagne unless it comes from that region. But the same folks who might call a glass of Shasta cola a coke will call any sparkling wine champagne, whether it cost $5 or upward of $800. Stan Stack, owner of Beau’s Wine Bin and Spirits Shoppe, said the price of champagne is determined by vintage, or lack thereof, and supply. "Most sparkling wines are a mix of grapes over several vintages,” Stack said. Vintages are the crops for a specific year. High-end champagnes such as Dom Perignon contain grapes picked from a single year. Price, though, is probably one of the easier things to determine when picking out your New Year’s Eve bottle. Before you enter a liquor store, you’ll likely have a budget in mind. What’s more difficult is picking out a bottle that you’ll like if you don’t have much experience drinking fizzy wine. Champagne is conceived no differently than any other wine. Harvested grapes are pressed before primary fermentation. The acidic yield is blended and bottled with yeast and sugar, creating a secondary fermentation in the bottle that carbonates the wine and causes bubbles to be born. After the yeast does its work on the sugar, it dies and becomes what is known as lees. Bottles are then stored horizontally so the wine can "age on lees” for 15 months or more. Winemakers then turn the bottles upside down so the lees can settle to the bottom. Once the dead yeast has settled, producers open the bottles to remove it, add a little sugar, and cork it. In high-end champagnes, the lees are not removed. The bottles are carefully turned on a schedule so that the lees settle in the neck of the bottle, a process that ranges from 18 months to five years. The extra contact with the lees is what produces complexity. The time taken to capture that complexity is what produces higher numbers on the price tag. Pink champagne might strike you as sweet, but you’d be fooled. "The grape juice is clear,” Stack said. "To get that color, they soak skins from black grapes in the wine.” A certain amount of red wine can also be blended in to ensure a specific color. If you want a sweet champagne, simply look for the term "doux.” Prosecco is an Italian dry sparkling wine that works as a good change-up. Prosecco is often used in making a Bellini. Asti, or Asti Spumanti, is Italy’s sweet sparkling wine.
Beyond the Bubbles For extra flair, consider edible hibiscus flower like the one pictured on the cover. This flower came in a jar of wild hibiscus soaking in syrup from Epicurean's Pantry, 1333 N Santa Fe Ave. in Edmond. Dried hibiscus can be found at many local grocery stores. Dried flowers can be soaked in water to rehydrate then stored in simple syrup. To make simple syrup add one cup of sugar to one cup of water and boil.
Bubbly Terms Aging and the amount of sugar added to sparkling wine after the second fermentation dictates the level of sweetness. Here are the terms you'll see on bottles and what they mean: Brut Natural or Brut Zero: less than 3 grams of sugar per liter. Extra Brut: Less than 6 grams of sugar per liter. Brut: Less than 15 grams of sugar per liter. Extra Sec or Extra Dry: 12 to 20 grams of sugar per liter. Sec: 17 to 35 grams of sugar per liter. Demi-sec: 33 to 50 grams of sugar per liter. Doux: More than 50 grams of sugar per liter. Prestige cuvee: A proprietary blended wine considered to be the top of a producer's range. Blanc de noirs: Meaning white of blacks, this is a white wine produced entirely from black grapes. Blanc de blancs: Meaning white of whites, this indicates the wine is made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes. Rose Champagne: Pink champagne, which is made either by allowing black grape skins to soak in the wine and/or blending in a small amount of red wine. Source: The Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia