Sparkling Wine: "Its Not All Champagne & Roses"

Sparkling Wine: "Its Not All Champagne & Roses"

Posted in Wine and Sparkling & Rose Wine on
by pastoralartisan  |  13 comments

Spring is here and with it comes changing taste buds and lighter, refreshing flavors! Today, I will start with Sparkling wine....mmmmm, bubbles...

Brief overview

Sparkling wine is an umbrella term for wine with bubbles. Only wine that comes from Champagne can be called Champagne, so it’s a common misconception to call all bubbly wine Champagne.

Production of Sparkling Wine

Sparkling wine is produced by first making still wine. Crush grapes, ferment, bottle. Most sparkling wines are non-vintage (NV) and are cuvees or blends of different vintages to create a consistent house style. Once the style is achieved, the wine goes through a second fermentation in the bottle, or Methode Champenoise. This is done by adding a flavorless liquid of old wine, sugar and yeast to assist the bottle fermentation. The byproduct of yeast eating sugar is carbon dioxide which is built up in the bottle and creates the bubbles. There is usually 3 atmospheres of pressure in a typical bottle of sparkling wine, which is why it is important to aim the cork away from living things when opening a bottle.

Most sparkling wine names are from old world regions. Many new world sparkling producers make wine in the style of these old world wines, but out of respect, do not use the name on the label. Some new world winemakers also make sparkling wine using the same method as making soda.  By infusing the wine with carbon dioxide, you can achieve the same effect with more control over the flavors of the wine, though a less complex wine.

The Types and Styles of Sparkling Wine

Cava

This style is from the cavas (caves) of the Penedes region of Northern Spain. Traditionally made with Parelleda, Xarello and Macabao grapes but some producers have introduced Chardonnay into the mix in the last few decades. Light and drier, Cava is a less expensive alternative to Champagne with similar levels of acidity.

Champagne

This indicates that all of the fruit comes from the AOC of Champagne in Northeastern France. The only grapes allowed in Champagne production are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. There are varying regions within Champagne that focus their wines on different grapes to give different styles of bubbly. A great resource is "The Champagne Companion" by Michael Edwards.

Your classic Champagne blend is all three grapes but there are two other designations that will determine flavors of the wine:

  • Blanc de Blancs (White of whites): 100% Chardonnay
  • Blanc de Noirs (White of blacks): Either 100% Pinot Noir or a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Muenier

Cremant de__________

There are 7 appellations in France who are allowed to use the term Cremant de______. This designation is strictly guarded and the area must adhere to strict guidelines such as hand-harvesting their grapes under a specified yield and the wine must be aged for a minimum of one year. Each area has different grapes that they are allowed to use according to their AOC. (ie, Cremant de Bourgogne = sparkling Chardonnay or Pinot Noir).

Cremant areas are Alsace, Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Die, Jura, Limoux, & Loire.

Moscato d'Asti

Moscato is a grape that can be both sweet and dry, but in Piedmont, Italy they make a lovely sparkling wine that is great for both apertifs and dessert. Sweet and bubbly, this wine used to be called Asti Spumante, (Asti being the town in Piedmont) but since that name has been since maligned, we now call this wine Moscato d'Asti.

Prosecco

This italian bubbly is both a DOC and a grape. Prosecco is a lighter, fruitier grape that makes a sparkling wine that has a soft mousse (bubbles) and is less dry than Cava or Champagne. Think white orchard fruit like white peaches and pears with bubbles and you'll have Prosecco.

Rose

Any wine, sparkling or not, can be made into a rose if the grape has a dark skin. 98% of wine grapes have clear juice but 75% have a skin that is somewhat colored. Rose sparkling wine can be made in 2 ways:

  1. Saignee - where they make the base wine a rose by leaving the juice in contact with the skin for a short period (8 -12 hours)
  2. They actually mix the wine with reserved red wine to make the wine a pink hue.

There are many versions of sparkling wine, but these are the major players in the sparkling wine game. You will see these most often on lists and in shops and now you will know what the labels mean! Compliment the upswing in Chicago weather with one of these delicious sparkling wines.

Cheers!

Jill Pienta
Wine Buyer

Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine