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Just Don't Call It Champagne...

Most people throw the term "champagne" around loosely. They think that any sparkling wine is champagne. Unfortunately, it isn't that easy.

True champagne comes from the Champagne region of France and is made in a very traditional method that involves several stages of fermentation including a long spell in the bottle that creates the bubbles.

That doesn't mean that other areas of the world aren't producing great sparkling wine. It's just that you have to call it something else.

One are of the world that is producing some wonderful sparkling wines made in the traditional method of Champagne is the region of Trentino which is in the Dolomite region of Northern Italy.

I was invited to a wonderful tasting in Chicago that featured these wines and I want to share some of my observations with you.

> Trentino is the first region of Italy that has been recognized by the DOC (the official governing body of Italy) as a region specializing in Traditional Method sparkling wine. Trento is in the NE corner of Italy and the elevation and cooler climate lends itself well to grapes having a bit more acidity that works for sparkling wines.

> The region uses the three traditional grapes that are used in French champagne but the names are a bit different (similar to Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio). The three grapes are Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir), Pinot Bianco (Pinot Blanc) and Pinot Meunier (Petite Meunier).

> Each winery that we tried had different blends of these three grapes. Fermentation time varied as did treatment in oak barrels and residual sugar for dossage.

I was very impressed by how food friendly these wines were and they complemented the wonderful meal that was served at the Chicago stalwart Spiaggia (considered by many to be the best Italian restaurant in the city).

All in all it was a fun afternoon that combined learning with culinary heaven. Special thanks to Colangelo PR for producing this event.

For more information on these wines, visit


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