The classic method of Champagne production is a meticulous and time-consuming operation involving a number of stages. These wines go through a second fermentation in individual bottles, creating additional carbonic gas that escapes the bottle in bubbly form when the cork is popped. This style was perfected in France’s Champagne region in the early 18th century and is still used the world over.
There are only three grapes allowed in the production of Champagne: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Champagne has low to medium acidity with notes of toast, yeast, figs, apple, pear and citrus. Chill to 4550 degrees and pair with caviar, egg-based dishes, lobster or smoked salmon.
Cavas are Spain’s contribution to the world of bubblies. They are made in specific areas and the favored grape varieties are Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo.
High-Quality California Sparkling Wine
California wine makers have been producing sparkling wine in the classic method since the middle of the 19th century. Not bound by the laws of the Champagne region, they have experimented with scores of grape varieties over the years. Most have settled upon the traditional combination of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, though Pinot Blanc and Pinot Meunier, among others, are occasionally utilized.
Sparkling wine made in the Charmat, or bulk, method goes through the bubble-creating second fermentation in a large tank, instead of in the bottle like true Champagne. Italy’s Asti and Prosécco, Germany’s Sekt and a host of sparkling wines made around the world get some of their youthful fruit flavors from this process. Much less expensive and time-consuming, the Charmat method creates the bubble without breaking the bank.
Another Italian sparkling wine, made from the Moscato grape. It was previously called Asti Spumante, since spumante is Italian for sparkling, but is now known as simply Asti. It can be floral and have notes of tangerine, apricot, peach and lychee. It can also be semi-sweet or sweet, with light body and medium acidity. Serve chilled (5060 degrees) and pair with fresh fruit, light pastries or cookies, and simple desserts.
This sparkling wine is made primarily in Veneto, Italy. Light-bodied and refreshing, it has notes of apple, pear, lemon, melon and almonds. Chill to 4550 degrees and pair with almonds, appetizers, shrimp or Chinese food.
Sparkling wine doesn’t have to be expensive. There are some great values out there, perfect for accompanying Sunday brunch or life’s little victories.