Champagne and Sparkling Wine
As promised this week we are going to cover a little more in depth the world of Champagne and sparkling wine. If you have not done it yet, I would highly recommend to read our Introduction to Champagne article, since it covers some of the basic knowledge useful to understand the topics that we are going to cover today.
Holidays are getting closer and it is finally time to celebrate with our friends and families. I am sure that in everyone’s mind celebration always rimes with “bubbles”. It is kind of interesting how the image itself of a sparkling wine getting opened is always associated with a celebration, so I thought it could be interesting to cover a little more in detail the main styles and differences that exist in the world of “bubbly” wine. Today we are going to talk about the most famous styles, but I will for sure talk about the remaining ones in future articles.
Let us start saying that as with any wine, the most important thing to look at is always where it comes from, because most of the times this will gives us a very good idea about how the wine is made and often how it tastes. Today we are going to explore three of the main producing countries for sparkling wine: France, Spain and Italy.
As we learnt in the last article, Champagne can only be made in the Champagne region of France, but there are many other regions in France that produce high class sparkling wines. These wines are called “Crémant”. Some of the most known come from Burgundy (Crémant de Bourgogne), Loire Valley (Crémant de Loire), and Alsace (Crémant d’Alsace). Each one of these regions is producing exceptional wines with different characteristics, but they all share the same method of production. Specifically they are all made using the Traditional Method (or Méthode Traditionnelle) which is the same one used for the Champagne production. I highly recommend to explore these wines, because they are often more affordable than Champagne, but still exceptional in quality.
Sparkling wine produced in Spain is called “Cava”. The word means “cave” and is referring to the place where the wine is stored during the second fermentation. This style of wine uses local grape varieties like Macabeu, Parellada and Xarello, and is produced using the Traditional Method. One of the biggest reasons for the popularity of this style is definitely the extremely affordable price. Despite the low price, the quality is not be underestimated. I always like to say that there is no reason why you should not have always a bottle of Cava in your fridge ready, just in case. Any moment could be a good opportunity to celebrate and Cava makes it possible with no need to break the bank.
Last but not least, Italy. The most famous Italian sparkling wine is for sure Prosecco. As with Champagne, in order to be called Prosecco it has to be made in the area of Prosecco DOC located across the regions of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia in the North East of Italy. It has to be made with mainly Glera grapes, but small percentages of others are allowed. Some of the best Proseccos come from the areas of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene and Asolo. The biggest difference between Prosecco and all the other sparkling wines we talked about so far is the production method. Prosecco is produced using the Tank Method or Charmat Method. This method was invented in 1895 by the Italian Federico Martinotti and later further developed by Eugène Charmat in 1907. The biggest difference between this method and the Traditional Method is that the second fermentation takes place in a pressurized tank instead of inside the bottle. The resulting wines produced using this technique are generally a little lighter and more fruit-forward, but not necessarily sweeter. Prosecco is by the way the traditional sparkling wine used to prepare Bellini and Rossini cocktails.
I hope this article will help you understanding a little bit better the differences between the style of sparkling wine and hopefully instill a little bit of curiosity to start exploring new wines.
Santé and Happy Holidays!