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Ultimate Guide To Sparkling Wine

Ultimate Guide To Sparkling Wine

There is no celebratory occasion without sparkling wine. It just would not be right without the sparkly bubbly drink of the Gods to commemorate a special occasion.

However, there is so much more to sparkling wine than meets the eye.

Just like there are hundreds of red and white wines, there are hundreds of sparkling wines, so if you are a newbie, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when trying to pick the perfect bottle of wine.

Luckily you’ve got the inside scoop on sparkling wines since I’ve put together this guide.

What is a Sparkling Wine?

In short, sparkling wines are wines that are flooded with carbon dioxide creating the bubbly texture we all know and love. The bubbles result from natural fermentation, which traps carbon dioxide or bubbles released during fermentation.

There are many ways to make sparkling wine. However, the most popular way to make sparkling wine is the champenoise method and the tank method.

The champenoise method is used in Champagne as well as other regions that produce sparkling wine. However, the tank method is used to make higher-quality methods like Prosecco.

Nevertheless, the easiest way to make sparkling wine is through artificial carbonation.

Which Country Invented Sparkling Wine?

Many countries across the globe produce sparkling wine. However, the birthplace of sparkling wine is the Champagne Valley of France. 

The term Champagne is designated only for sparkling wines produced in Champagne, France. Since there is a limited supply of Champagne, it is costly.

How is Sparkling Wine Made? 

As I mentioned above, there are many ways to make sparkling wine. However, generally speaking, these are the steps that most winemakers take to produce sparkling wine.

First, the grapes are harvested, and the winemaker sorts through the grapes to select a specific base depending on the type of sparkling wine being produced.

The grapes are crushed in a press and fermented. This is also known as the cuvée or base of the wine.

Yeast and sugar are added to the base to kickstart the second fermentation.

The quantity of sugar added during the second fermentation is significant as it determines the wine’s dryness and the amount of pressure produced in the bottle.

During this phase, the wine is bottled, and the signature crown cap we see on sparkling wine is added.

Winemakers wait patiently for the second fermentation to happen. During this step, the wine’s alcohol content increases due to the yeast consuming sugar and producing alcohol.

Carbon dioxide is also produced during the phase creating the bubbly, fizzy texture we all know and love.

Next, the sparkling wine is aged to develop its texture and flavor.

Since the wine undergoes both first and second fermentation, lees or depleted yeast cells will accumulate at the bottom of the bottle.

Therefore, winemakers usually turn the wine upside down, causing the lees to gather at the neck of the bottle.

The bottles will remain in this position, then be placed into freezing water. The accumulated lees in the neck of the bottle will freeze.

The wine winemakers then remove the cap from the bottle of wine to allow the lees to run off.

Lastly, a mixture of wine and sugar is added to each bottle of sparkling wine to fill the bottle up. The bottles are corked, wired, and labeled.

What’s the Difference Between Champagne and Sparkling Wine?

In short, Champagne is sparkling wine. However, every sparkling wine is not Champagne. 

Champagne is so famous that some people call any bubbly wine Champagne. However, sparkling wine can only be called Champagne if it is produced in the Champagne Valley of France.

Champagne produced in this region is subject to strict regulations. For example, Champagne can only be made using Chardonnay, Meunier, Pinot Noir, and Pinot grapes.

What Does Sparkling Wine Taste Like?

The flavor of sparkling wine is based on several factors. For example, where the wine is produced, the climate the grapes were grown in, as well as the grapes themselves can affect the flavor of sparkling wine.

Generally speaking, sparkling wines can have creamy, crisp, light, airy, and fruity tones. Sparkling can also have toast, apple, nectarine, plum, and vanilla flavors.

Is Sparkling Wine Dry Or Sweet

Sparkling wine can be dry or sweet or somewhere in the middle. This is the beautiful thing about sparkling wine.

You can experiment with many wines to find the wine that suits your palette, whether it be a dry or sweet wine.

What are the Different Styles of Sparkling Wines?

There are many different styles of sparkling wines. However, the most popular types of sparkling wine are Champagne, Cava, and Prosecco.

Nevertheless, we included 8 kinds of sparkling wine, so there is something for everyone on this list.

Champagne

As I mentioned above, Champagne is produced from a select few grapes, including Meunier, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. It is the creme de la creme of sparkling wine.

Champagne flavors can range from light and crisp with notes of lemon, green apples, and minerality to bold and rich with scents of toffee, baked apples, or brioche.

Rosé Champagne has more of a fruity berry aroma.

The most popular type of Champagne is called Grower Champagne.

It’s called Grower Champagne because the winemakers cultivate the grapes themselves, a new but unusual practice in the Champagne Valley.

As you can imagine, since more work is involved in producing Growers Champagne, a bottle can run for $50 or more.

This is why Growers Champagne should be reserved for special occasions or hostess gifts.

Cremant 

Cremant is the French term for creamy. It is the word used to describe sparkling wine using the Champenoise method produced in other provinces than Champagne.

This can include wines such as Cremant de Bourgogne/Burgundy, Cremantd’Alsace, Cremant de Loire, and Cremant de Jura.

In each province, the wine can be produced using different grapes. For example, Cremant de Loire can be made from Cabernet Franc or Chenin Blanc.

In contrast, Cremantd’Alsace can be made from Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and in some cases, Gewürztraminer.

Cremant sparkling wines are the perfect substitute for Champagne as it is much cheaper.

Blanquette de Limoux 

Limoux is one of the oldest producers of sparkling wine. As the name implies, Blanquette de Limoux comes from a small region of Languedoc, France.

The earliest records indicate the Limoux region could have been made in 1531.

Blanquette de Limoux is made using the Champenoise method. The official grape for making this wine is a local grape, Mauzac or Blanquette. 

Cremant de Limoux is also produced in this same region. However, Cremant de Limoux is mainly made from Chardonnay and Chennin Blanc grapes.

Prosecco 

Next to Champagne, Prosecco is probably one of the most popular sparkling wines. Prosecco is made using the Giera grape found in Italy.

It is produced using the Charmat method. In short, carbonation takes place in large steel tanks.

Since prosecco is not aged, Persecoo has a simpler flavor that is less complex. Its flavors are reminiscent of pear and apple with a floral aroma. Some inexpensive prosecco wine can even have a sweet taste.

Cava 

Cava originates from Spain. Today’s Spanish sparkling wines are of superior quality. However, this wasn’t always the case.

Spanish sparkling wines were exported to the U.S. However, they were less than stellar. Luckily, Spanish winemakers figured it out.

Most sparkling wines are made using the Champenoise method.

Some Cava wines are aged even longer than Champagne. Cava wines are usually made from Macabeo, Xarello, and Parellada. However, cava wines can also be made from other wines.

Cava wines can be a great choice if you want to try something different or you are throwing a party.

Franciacorta 

Franciacorta is made in Lombardy province of Italy. Although Franciacorta is a delicious wine, it is expensive, so if budget is a huge concern, this may not be the best sparkling wine for you.

Franciacorta is also made using the Champenoise. It is much warmer than northern France, so the wines are richer and do not have the same minerality and acidity as Champagne.

Nevertheless. Franciacorta is a great wine if you are in the mood for something different.

Sekt 

In general, Sekt refers to any German sparkling wine. Like Cava wines, Sekt wines have also been classed as low-quality, so they are one of the most overlooked sparkling wines.

However, this does not mean that all sket wines are horrible. Some German winemakers are producing high-quality Sket wines.

One example of this is ReislingSket. Reisling has a nectarine, green apple with the minerality and bubbliness we all know and love.   

American Sparkling Wine

The U.S. does not have strict laws regarding which grapes can be used for wines. Therefore, a winemaker can technically you any grape they please to make sparkling wine.

The most common grapes for American sparkling wine are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Some sparkling wines are produced via the Champenoise method.

However, some wines are made using other methods like the Charmat method.

Generally, cooler climates Like Northern California and upstate New York are better for sparkling wines as they preserve the acidity levels in the grape.

Nevertheless, some of the best U.S. sparkling wines come from warmer climates, such as New Mexican Gruet sparkling wines.

Is Champagne Better Than Prosecco?

Champagne and Prosecco lovers worldwide are in a massive debate over which sparkling wine is better. The truth is both Prosecco and Champagne are delicious, so there is no winner.

Both wines have their own characteristic aromas, flavors, and carbonation levels.

If you are a newcomer on sparkling wine scene, I’d recommend trying a glass of each before deciding which wine is better suited to your palette.

How Do You Pick A Good Sparkling Wine?

All sparkling wines are not equal. Therefore you need to know how to choose the best bottle of sparkling wine. This is why you should use these tips to choose a sparkling wine.

Size

You need to choose the bottle size depending on the number of people you intend to serve. In addition to this, pay attention to the bubble size before purchasing a bottle of sparkling wine.

Bubbles size indicates whether the wine is high quality or low quality. The finer the bubbles, the better the quality of the sparkling wine. 

Look for sparkling wine that has tiny, fine bubbles with a light, frothy texture. So the next time you purchase a bottle of Prosecco or Champagne, look for tiny bubbles.

If there are large bubbles, it may not be a high-quality sparkling wine.

Green Bottles

Always purchase sparkling wines that are bottled in green bottles. Excessive exposure to light can drastically affect the quality of the sparkling wine.

This is why most sparkling wines are bottled in dark bottles.

Exposure to light can heat the wine up so much that it destroys its flavor, so stick with dark bottles. The darker the bottle of sparkling wine, the better.

Dryness Levels

You may have seen a bottle of sparkling wine labeled dry or brut. These terms tell you the dryness level of the wine.

Dryness is based on the residual levels of sugar in the finished wine. The sugar levels are measured by grams of sugar per liter.

All of these terms can be confusing, but there are 4 levels of dryness you will likely see when purchasing sparkling wines.

Extra Brut

The driest type of sparkling wine on the market is extra brut. It has 6 grams of sugar per liter.

This means that all of the yeast has consumed most of the sugars during fermentation. Cava is an excellent extra brut wine.

Brut

Brut is probably the most popular type of sparkling wine on the market. Brut wine is dry, but it has a bit of sweetness. 

Brut sparkling wine has 12 grams of sugar per liter. Champagne is the most popular type of brut sparkling wine.

Extra Dry

Extra dry sparkling wine is not like anything like brut and extra brut. Extra dry sparkling wine has a slightly sweet flavor.

It has 12-17 grams of sugar per liter of wine. Prosecco is the most popular extra-dry sparkling wine.

Demi-Sec

Demi-sec is the sweetest sparkling wine, so it’s usually reserved for dessert. Demi-sec can have up to 50 grams of sugar per liter, so it has a sweet flavor.

Although Champagne is rarely made demi-sec, some types of Champagne can be made in this style.

How Long Does Sparkling Wine Last?

To store sparkling wine, place the Champagne bottle on its side. Keeping the bottle on its side will allow the cork to stay moist and preserve the sparkling wine’s flavor.

Other types of sparkling wines should be stored in an upright position to keep them dry.

Additionally, make sure you store your wine in a cool, dark place away from sunlight light, like the pantry or a wine cooler.

Once you open the sparkling wine, it will last for 3-5 days before the bubbles fizzle out and the wine becomes flat.This is why you should use a wine stopper or try to re-insert the cork to maintain most of the carbonation.

Why Should You Not Shake the Bottle of Sparkling Wine?

Do not shake the bottle of sparkling wine before you pour it. Shaking the bottle will cause the wine to spill, and you will waste the good stuff. 

Shaking the wine will also deplete the flavor that the bubbles contain.

The more bubbles that leave the bottle of sparkling wine, the fewer bubbles will be in the bottle. Fewer bubbles equal flat sparkling wine.

How To Open Sparkling Wine

Do not be afraid to open sparkling wine. The most that can happen is you spill a little wine.

Pressure builds inside the bottle of sparkling wine can cause the cork to move. Therefore, most winemakers place a wire called the cage over the cork to keep it secure.

When you are trying to open the bottle of sparkling wine, do not point it at anyone.

Untwist the bottom of the cage, but do not take the cage off of the bottle. Place one hand on top of the cork and cage, press down firmly, and gradually turn the bottle with your free hand.

The cork should start to loosen, and the pressure caused by carbonation will begin to push the cork upward out of the bottle.

The cork will slowly come out of the bottle, and the pressure will release with a sigh.

What Glasses are the Best For Champagne and Sparkling Wine?

Skinny Champagne flutes are the standard glass for Champagne glasses. These flutes are specifically designed to maintain the bubbles in the glass.

However, tulip-shaped wine glasses or dessert wines are also great glasses for sparkling wine. These glasses have a slightly bigger bowl so you can smell and taste the wine better.

Final Thoughts 

There’s never a good reason not to enjoy a glass of bubbly. After all, people have been enjoying sparkling wines for centuries.

Now you can use this information to pick out the perfect bottle of sparkling wine.