Friday, January 2, 2009

Getting To Know Brachetto d'Acqui - Sparkling Dessert Wine From Italy - And The Answer To The Question: Who Invented Champagne?

If you aren't already partied out, Brachetto d'Aqui is an awesome sparkling dessert wine that's great for celebrations. I tried the Italian dessert wine for the first time a few weeks ago, while dining at Town Hall in San Francisco. A deliciously sweet wine, it is similar in taste to a Moscato, only throws the unique element of carbonation into the mix. I'd never had a sparkling dessert wine before and it really is something to admire; the wonderful notes of honeysuckle exploding with each bubble.

The wine is made from Brachetto grapes, which are primarily grown in the Piedmont region, and is light red in color. The wine is often low in alcohol content, around 5.5%. Unfortunately I cannot remember the exact producer of Brachetto d'Aqui that I sampled, though I remember it had nice bright fruit, such as raspberries and strawberries, which vanished quickly, revealing a long sweet finish. I guess the tremendously delicious meal at Town Hall had already saturated my mind. Click here to read my review of Town Hall on www.sanfrancsicorestaurants.com.

All this carbon dioxide had me wondering: Who invented Champagne? To my surprise, not only was there clear documentation as to who invented the bubbly, but it turns out that it was not in fact a French winemaker, viz. Dom Perignon. If you use the criterion of "invented" to mean a reproducible method - not a one time shot in the dark - then sparkling wine originated in 1676, on the English estate of winemaker Sir George Etheredge.

Sir George Etheredge was the first person to figure out that adding sugar produces a build up of carbon dioxide. It is believed that many Englishmen purchased wines from Champagne when they were yet still and crisp, and turned them into sparkling Champagne (or real Champagne, duh) by popping the corks, adding sugar, and waiting a while.

Well, I'm sure glad someone figured it out. New Year's just wouldn't be the same. Or, come to think of it, dessert! If you try some Brachetto d'Aqui for yourself, please tell me what think of it. I wish you all the best in the new year!

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