Or, to be more accurate, the bubbles in the glasses of sparkling wine, as of course not all sparkling wine is champagne. From the characteristic terroir of the Champagne region to the very strict production process that has to be followed, champagne is by its very nature a luxury product.
“The minimum time to produce champagne is 15 months with the Methode Champenoise,” says Sergio Serrano of Jacques Scott.
Part of the production process involves the bottles being rotated, or riddled, over a period of weeks in order to settle out the sediment into the neck of the bottle. Although the process can be automated, some champagnes are still riddled by hand.
“You have the riddlers who just turn the bottles in the caves – some experts do 40,000 bottles a day. That’s a lot of labour, so champagne is truly a hand-made product,” says Sergio.
One of Sergio’s personal favourites is Bollinger, but other favourite champagne houses include Taittinger and Roederer, the makers of Cristal.
Working on roughly half a bottle per guest, the cost of serving champagne can quickly add up.
“No matter if it is going to be a small wedding, you are still going to spend some money on champagne, because minimum for 80 people will be 40 bottles of champagne, so about $2,200 retail,” says Sergio.
However, with so much spent on the rest of the wedding, Sergio believes that if at all possible a budget should be stretched to accommodate proper champagne.
“This is one of the best days of your life. So you want to invest the money in your wedding – the dress, the restaurant or the caterer, and the champagne. So if you are going to invest that kind of money, why settle for something less? It’s once in a lifetime,” he says.
However, just because a sparkling wine cannot lay claim to being a champagne does not mean that it is an inferior product.
Most wine producing regions in the world now produce sparkling wine, using any variety of production methods from methods very similar to the Methode Champenoise to methods aimed more at mass production.
From Chile and Argentina to California, New Zealand and Australia to South Africa, and all through Europe, including Italy and Spain, sparkling wine has become an important product.
In fact, a number of noted champagne houses have set up wineries in other parts of the world to produce sparkling wine, including Roederer (the makers of Cristal) which has a winery in California. As these sparkling wines carry the name of Roederer, one can be assured that the quality will be right up there with the best.
In sparkling wine, regions like Italy and Spain have also started building a steady following for their wines, with prosecco from Italy and cava from Spain.
“For prosecco I would go for Lunetta prosecco, Cava from Spain I like Freixenet Cordon Negro and then from Chile we have Vina Maipo as well as Valdivieso,” says Sergio.
“Just because it’s from Chile, California or Argentina, don’t think ‘O, what do they know about producing sparkling wine?’ People come from France and buy land because they see that it is good terroir, and they won’t put their name on something that is not good – they have a name to maintain, no matter if it is from California or from France,” says Sergio.
With true champagne starting at around $50 per bottle, it is important to remember that when you ask for champagne when planning a wedding, you will be quoted on champagne, not on sparkling wine. However, for that one special day, it is well worth it, according to Sergio.
“You cannot go wrong with champagne – you will be happy, your guests will be happy, when you look at the wedding pictures and you see a bottle of Bollinger or Taittinger on the table, you will be happy.”
For more information on champagne and sparkling wine, visit any Jacques Scott store.