RSA Update : The Truth About Champagne

Winemakers and connoisseurs have been debating the pros and cons of screw caps over cork for a while now. Recently sparkling winemakers have begun investigating the benefits of screw caps to the industry.


According to a post by


About 18 million bottles of Champagne are wasted each year due to cork taint, according to a top wine critic, who has welcomed Australian winemaker De Bortoli’s pioneering move to release the world’s first screw-capped sparkling wines.


Wine writer Tyson Stelzer told journalists at this week’s launch of the new De Bortoli wines that about five to six per cent of the Champagnes he tastes are “corked or distinctly ‘corky'”.


“Comparing that with other international Champagne writers there seems to be fair agreement that it’s somewhere between four and six per cent,” he said.


“If you do the maths somehow, Champagne ships 320 million bottles a year and that equates to 18 million bottles down the drain.”


“At what cost? I reckon it must be at least a billion dollars, possibly $2 billion in corked or cork-tainted Champagne.”


Stelzer said it was a gutsy move by De Bortoli to be the first to introduce the new Viiva closure, which uses technology that was five years in the making by Guala Closures.


“There’s probably no more challenging sector of the wine market to pitch an alternative closure than sparkling wines,” he said.


“Whether we like it or not, the consumer attachment to the pop of the cork is something that I don’t think we should underestimate.”


De Bortoli Wines national sales manager, Peter Yeoman added that corked sparkling has hidden cost impacts for winemakers, because consumers who have a bad experience with a brand may not go back to it.


“People turn around and they think there’s an issue with the product itself, when it’s actually been the closure,” he said.





The Low Down on Bubbly





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While real Champagne is produced in the Champagne region of France, everything else is just sparkling wine.  The consensus is that the smaller the bubbles the better quality the champagne or sparkling wine. The reason for this is there are more bubbles available to release the flavor and aroma. But what other similarities does champagne share with wine?  Champagne is no different from any other kind of wine. It can be cellared (that is kept and improved with age) but the degree to which you can age a bottle of champagne without ruining it will vary according to a particular brand of champagne and conditions under which the champagne is stored.


Napolean Bonaparte once said, : “I drink Champagne when I win, to celebrate… And I drink Champagne when I lose, to console myself.”


Champagne certainly is the drink for celebrations and the 5400 champagne suppliers worldwide is a testament to its popularity.   Moët Et Chandon is the largest producer and its holds over 55% of the champagne market.



So what is the best way to drink champagne?


From a flute glass of course. The wider wine glasses are not at all suitable as the bubbles evaporate too quickly and the aroma is also wasted. The better class of flutes has a little drop of glass on the bottom of it, that makes the bubbles rise from the little drop. Crystal glasses are also better as they are slightly rougher allowing the bubbles to come out more.  Champagne is best consumed at 6 to 10 degrees centigrade (42-50F).



Types of Champagne



Non Vintage


Blended from wines that are several years old. Many NV Champagnes are a blend of thirty or forty different wines.  This Champagne cannot be sold until it is 15 months old, although most reputable houses will age the wine in for longer.  With age most champagnes will become richer.




Vintage champagne must be 39 months before it can be sold. Vintage Champagne is a blend of wines from a particular year, when the quality of the harvest was sufficient to declare a “Vintage”. Obviously, not every year is a vintage year, but the vintage is left to the individual houses themselves to declare. Therefore, some houses declare a vintage Champagne in a year where others did not feel the quality justified it.




Rosé Champagne can be made either by maceration of black grapes during pressing, so that the colour leeches out from the skins  or by adding a small proportion of the red wine form the Champagne region to give the wine a rose colour.



Prestige Cuvées


Invented by Moët  in 1921. A special champagne in a vintage year can be “Prestige or Deluxe cuvées”. Probably the most famous of these is Moët’s Cuvée Dom Pérignon.  These are the most expensive champagnes and are the epitome of achievement for the champagne house.


Complete the RSA course online and serve all these in your favorite champagne glass