The most famous sparkling wine that you will come across is Champagne. However, sparkling wines are also made in a number of other regions outside of Champagne, and these make tasty affordable alternatives if you don’t want to pay for the Champagne price tag. Join us for a tour around the sparkling wine world to find out more.
The World of Sparkling Wine
Champagne is named after the region from where it is produced in northern France. The region is responsible for making one of the most glamorous and prestigious styles of wine in the wine world, although also one of the most expensive.
Sparkling wine is also produced elsewhere in France and this is usually referred to as Cremant. The same winemaking technique as Champagne is used to make Cremant and many of the fruit flavours are present, although the wines are often not as complex. Typically these wines are produced in and around the Loire region and are made using the Chenin Blanc grape.
Cava is the name given to sparkling wine from Spain. Cava is traditionally made from local Spanish grapes, although modern versions often use the Champagne grapes. It is mainly produced in the Catalonia region and, like Champagne, can be made to varying levels of dryness from extra dry through to sweet.
Prosecco is a dry / off dry sparkling wine made in North East Italy. It is typically very refreshing, has delicate fruit flavours and is slightly lighter in body than Champagne. Asti, on the other hand, is generally light and sweet, and is made in the North West of Italy. Franciacorta and Trento are other Italian sparkling wines to look out for. Italian sparkling wine can either be fully sparkling, known as Spumante, or just lightly sparkling, which is referred to as Frizzante.
Sparkling wines from Germany are known as Sekt. These are usually simple in style, aromatic and can be medium or dry. They are often made slightly differently to the traditional champagne making method.
Countries in the New World, including New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and California, are also important producers of Sparkling wines. The grapes used are generally those traditionally used to make Champagne. However, in Australia, in particular, sparkling reds are also common and tend to be full bodied and fruity, made using the Shiraz grape.
What the Label Says
Just like Champagne, Sparkling wine comes in a variety of styles from dry through to sweet. If you like your wine dry, look out for the word “brut” or “sec” on the label. “Extra” or “ultra brut” means that the wine is very dry, “demi–sec” means medium-sweet, while “doux” refers to a sweet wine.
Here’s the Technical Bit
Without getting too techie on you, there are a variety of ways in which sparkling wine is produced.
This is the process used to make Champagne, along with a number of other sparkling wines. It is the most expensive form of production and involves taking a still wine, bottling it and allowing the yeasts in the wine to ferment over time, which produces the bubbles. The yeast is then removed either by the Traditional Methode Champenoise, which involves slowly tipping the Champagne bottles and freezing the bottle necks to help remove the yeast via the bottle stopper, or by the Transfer Method, which involves removing the contents of the bottles, filtering out the yeast and then re-bottling. Cremant and Cava wines are generally made from using the Methode Champenoise, while sparkling wines from New Zealand and Australia often use the Transfer method.
Tank/ Charmant Method
This is generally used to make Asti, most Prosecco and Sekt. This method involves using a giant pressurised tank to transfer the wine from one bottle to another. It is when the wine is in the tank that the carbon dioxide is trapped and this causes the wine to bubble. The transfer method is generally considered as more cost effective than the traditional method but it doesn’t add many of the complex flavours often associated with wines made from the traditional method.
This involves taking a still wine and injecting it with carbon dioxide under pressure. This is probably the cheapest method for producing sparking wine, however the bubbles tend to disappear more quickly compared to wines made from other methods.
When to Drink it?
Sparkling wines make a great toast at parties and celebrations. They are also a good drink for welcoming people or as a pre-dinner drink. But like champagne, sparkling wine also works well with food and, in particular, is a great food match for fish.
Red and Rosé Sparkling Wine – For a Change?
As much as we love white sparkling wines, a sparkling rosé can make a deliciously refreshing change for an aperitif. Alternatively, for something a bit different, why not try a sparkling red wine? Sounds an unusual concept we know but crack one open next time you are entertaining and we’re sure that you and your guests will be hooked in no time.
Choose from a wide range of sparkling wine here.