When it comes to celebrating, sparkling wine is the way to go. Often associated with class and glamor, Champagne is the king of the party. Regardless, sparkling wines can be made in vastly diverse styles and have a great variety of price points to fit different budgets.
“Sparkling” wine gets its name for its fizzy characteristics. The winemaker makes a base wine an appropriate wine—most commonly white or rosé—and then proceeds to a second fermentation to carbonate it, using one of many different techniques.More info and FAQ below
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Frequently Asked Questions About Sparkling Wine
How is sparkling wine made?
The bubbles in sparkling wine are produced by carbon dioxide (CO2), which is absorbed into the liquid when fermentation occurs under pressure in a closed container. This second fermentation can happen rather quickly in a tank—known as the Charmat method—or very slowly in a bottle, which is best known as methode tradicionelle.
If vinified in the tank, wines are very aromatic and fruit-forward (which doesn't necessarily mean sweeter), and are meant to be enjoyed young. Wines fermented in the bottle, such as Champagne, spend a long time in contact with the lees and turn out richer, with toasty or nutty notes. The longer the lees contact, the more complex the wine becomes.
What's the history of sparkling wine?
It may be hard to believe, but bubbles in wine were not always considered a good thing. In previous ages, European Vignerons struggled with bottles that would re-ferment in summer, producing those unintentional bubbles. The story of how this began to be considered a positive attribute is in part thanks to Dom Perignon (1638-1715), a French monk who is well known to have said: "Come quickly, I'm drinking the stars."
What makes a great quality sparkling wine?
Bubbles: Small and persistent bubbles are considered to be a sign of high-quality wine, as they leave a pleasant cleansing feeling on the palate.
Freshness: Lively acidity lifts the aromatics, brightens the mouthfeel, and extends the length of sparkling wine. A well-balanced sparkling has that delicious zesty mouthfeel.
Precision: On the tongue, the wine should feel direct and penetrating. It’s mostly about the acid, which is mandatory for good sparkling wines.
Flavor and aroma intensity: Regardless of whether we’re looking at a fresh floral-fruity Prosecco or a richly delicate and expressive Champagne, who doesn't enjoy a great flavor intensity when sipping their favorite sparkling?
Looking for pairing and cocktail inspiration? Italian aperitifs, especially Aperol Spritz, is the signature cocktail to make with Prosecco. It’s super easy to make and a perfect drink for spring/summer sunsets with friends and family.
If you’re a Mimosa lover, spoil yourself with some of the great picks over at Empire Best Value to find offers under ten bucks!
Why are sparklings priced so differently?
Three factors determine the price of sparkling wines:
How much labor was involved in the winemaking process
Where the vineyards are located
The size of the wine production
The "methode champenoise" is used to make Champagne, Cava, and most U.S. sparkling wines (remember? When second fermentation occurs in the bottle). This is a more complicated process that requires much more labor, time, and resources, forcing the winemaker to handle each bottle many times. In contrast, Prosecco, for instance, is made using the Charmat method, which allows for larger-scale production in much shorter timeframes.
How do I read sparkling wine labels?
If you see a sparkling wine called "Blanc de Blancs," it means it’s made exclusively from Chardonnay. If you see it referred to as "Blanc de Noirs," it's made solely from Pinot Noir.
When it comes to sweetness:
- Dry sparklings are frequently labeled as pas dosage, zero dosage, brut zero, or brut nature, depending on where they come from.
- Extra brut refers to wines that have slightly residual sugar below 3 g/L, which can also be considered dry.
- Brut and Extra Sec both mean that the wine is off-dry or moderately sweet.
- If you enjoy the sweeter spectrum, Sec, Demi-sec, and Doux are the way to go.
Wine in a can? Why not?
Single servings are great options for parties, picnics, people living by themselves, and wine lovers who want to spoil themselves with a glass of sparkling over a weekday.
Information About Sparkling Wine
Sparkling Wine vs. Champagne
Is sparkling wine Champagne? What's the real difference between them?
For most consumers, perceiving the differences between styles and names can be quite trying, but there's nothing to worry about. Here's your ultimate guide to sparkling wine.
The simplest answer to the age-old sparkling wine vs. Champagne question is that sparkling wine can only be called Champagne if it’s grown, fermented, and bottled in the region of Champagne, France. As an easy rule of thumb, all Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne. Champagne can be thought of in terms of geographical location rather than winemaking style.
Sparkling Wine Types
- Champagne (France)
- Prosecco, Asti, Franciacorta (Italy)
- Cava (Spain)
- Sparkling Wine Napa (U.S.)
- Sparkling Wine (Australia)
- Methode Cap Classique (South Africa)
Champagne is a sparkling wine produced in the region of Champagne, and which is only made using Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, or Pinot Meunier grapes. Moreover, Champagne is made using the "traditional" or "champenoise method", which leads to more elegant, complex, nutty yet fresh sparkling wine. The most valued Champagne wines are aged for at least three years.
Prosecco is the most famous Italian sparkling wine. It's made in Northeast Italy from the Glera grape. Most Prosecco wines are made to be enjoyed fresh and young, with bright, flowery, and peachy aromatics.
Quick Buying Tip: The best Prosecco wines are thought to be from the hilly sub-region of Valdobbiadene, aka Prosecco Superiore.
Cava is the Spanish sparkling wine. It's usually made from a blend of Macabeu, Parellada, and Xarel-lo, all of which are local grapes. This style of Spanish sparkling offers different tiers of quality, quite similar to Champagne.
- Cava: 9 months of aging.
- Reserva: 15 months of aging.
- Gran Reserva: 30 months of aging.
If you’re a Champagne lover, the great news is that Cava can be found for a fraction of the price.
Sparkling Wine Napa
Some of the best Champagne houses landed in the U.S. many years ago and are found in Napa, Carneros, and Anderson Valley—some of the best climates to produce world-class sparklings. Zesty, fresh, and with many different levels of complexity, Napa Sparkling Wine is a fantastic success story.
Note Champagne can only be called Champagne if it comes from the Champagne region in northern France; it has nothing to do with the winemaking technique used to produce it.
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