- On December 2, 2015
Here is a little run down on the main types of sparkling wine. The styles of sparkling, the grapes their made from, and the regions are endless which is what makes wine, and specifically bubbles so fun. You don’t like one? There are hundreds of different ones to try. We’ll only be opening 50, but it’s a good start!
Champagne only comes from the Champagne region of France and all other sparkling wines must have different names as regulated by the EU and in the next couple of years Champagne or Champagne method will not be allowed on any U.S. labels per an agreement with the EU.
What makes Champagne so special is the high difficulty level of growing grapes in a cooler and wetter region, the long history of growers and producers perfecting their craft over centuries, and the special and difficult method employed to make delicious sparkling wines. The grape varietals allowed in Champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier (along with a few traditional varietals that aren’t commonly used anymore).
Méthode Champenoise is the traditional method by which Champagne is produced. After primary fermentation and bottling, a second alcoholic fermentation occurs in the bottle with the addition of yeast and sugar. Then secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle and the wine might sit on the lees (expended yeast) for years to develop the flavor of the wine before riddling and disgorgement. Riddling is when the bottle is turned slowly upside down to concentrate the lees in the neck of the bottle. The neck is frozen, and the cap removed. The pressure in the bottle forces out the ice containing the lees, and the bottle is quickly corked to maintain the carbon dioxide. Some wine from previous vintages as well as additional sugar (le dosage) is added to maintain the level within the bottle and, importantly, adjust the sweetness of the finished wine.
Prosecco is also a regulated area and only sparkling wine made from at minimum 75% Glera and up to 15% of Verdiso, Bianchetta Trevigiana, Perera, Glera lunga, Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Nero, and made in the Prosecco DOC can be called Prosecco.
The method of production is very different from Champagne which results in a fruitier, lighter flavor. During Charmat method the secondary fermentation takes place in a stainless steel tank instead of in the bottle, and the wine is then bottled fully sparkling.
Bugey-Cerdon is a region in Bugey, France close to the Jura, Savoie, and Switzerland. These wines are sparkling Gamay with some Poulsard blended in once and a while. The Méthod Ancestrale or ancestral method indicates that the wine is naturally sparkling and no secondary fermentation has taken place. The young, fresh wine gets bottled before fermentation has finished which causes a slight amount of carbon dioxide to be present in the bottle.
This is a term you will see on sparkling labels from France that aren’t Champagne. The grape varietals used can vary region to region and can include Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Jaquere, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and more. The comment Cremants you will see are Cremant de Loire, Cremant du Jura, or Cremant du Bourgone.
Cava is Spanish sparkling wine from Penedes near Barcelona and is made using the Champagne method with indigenous grape varietals such as Perellada, Xarello, or Macabeo and Chardonnay and Pinot Noir can also be used.
Whether it’s Rosé Champagne, Cremant, Rosado Cava, or domestic sparkling Rosé, these are sparkling wines made with red grape varietals. Some are made using exclusively red grapes and allow less skin contact, while others are white wines to start with red wine added, such as Pinot Noir in Champagne.
Lambrusco is the name of the grape varietal that makes the mostly red sparkling wine from Emilia-Romagna in central Italy. These are also slightly sparkling wines made to be drunk young and as an aperitif with meats and cheeses. Many people think Lambrusco is very sweet and comes in jugs, but just like any wine the sweetness level can range from dry to off-dry to sweet.
Terms to know & recognize:
Brut Nature or Extra Brut: This is the driest style of sparkling wine. This means that in the traditional or Champagne method of production no dosage of sugar was added at the end.
Brut: Also a very dry style of sparkling and very little sugar was added
Extra-Dry: Extra-Dry is sweeter that Brut but not perceptibly sugary or dessert style
Demi-Sec: This is a sweet sparkling wine
Frizzante: this means slightly sparkling in Italian
Spumante: this means full on sparkling in Italian however it has become synonymous with Asti Spumante which is sparkling Moscato not to be confused with Moscato D’Asti which is only frizzante