More Bubbles Please!
Summer is such a fun time for wine. We find ourselves reaching for different bottles than we do in the colder months, which makes wine exciting again. Sparkling wine is one type of wine we’re indulging in more as the sun shines. Gone are the days when bubbles were only for special occasions — why wait around when you can pop the cork any day of the week?! The excitement of pulling the cork on a fresh bottle can brighten any day. Luckily there are so many options available to choose from, in a multitude of styles, varietals, and price points. The choices can be overwhelming, so let’s get a bit into the nitty gritty of how some sparkling wines differ.
What Are the Options?
If you think all sparkling wine is Champagne, boy do we have news for you! Many wine regions around the world produce variations of sparkling wine and they all have something a little different to offer. We could go on for hours about the various sparkling options available and how to choose one to drink. So while this list is by no means exhaustive, it will get you started on the most popular bubbles around.
The gold standard. The “name brand” of sparkling wine. In fact, when you mention sparkling wine, chances are this is the first thing most people think of. Grown, bottled, and aged in the Champagne region of France, Champagne is the most expensive option in the sparkling world. Champagne gets its bubbles from a 2nd round of fermentation after adding yeast and sugar, to combat the intense acidity from using barely ripened grapes. Choosing your Champagne can be summed up in 2 easy steps:
- Sweetness level (from least to most): Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra-Dry, Dry, and Doux.
- Style: majority of Champagne is made with Chardonnay (Blanc de Blancs) or Pinot Noir/Pinot Meunier (Blanc de Noirs). If the varietal is not listed, it is likely a blend of all 3. There is also Rosé Champagne which is made by adding a very small amount of red Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier to blanc Champagne.
The main thing Prosecco has in common with Champagne are the bubbles. Italy’s most famous sparkling wine is made with Glera grapes and given its lovely effervescence using the Charmat Method (aka Tank Method). This process differs from the traditional one used for Champagne, in that 2nd fermentation takes place in a large tank, rather than the individual bottle. This process is cheaper to execute, but still produces excellent sparkling wine! Prosecco is categorized by Brut, Extra Dry, and Dry in terms of sweetness (least to most). So doesn’t have as much variety as Champagne does.
We happen to think Cava is having its moment. Spanish sparkling wine (Cava) is made in the same fermentation method as Champagne, but is often significantly less expensive. How is that possible? Well for one, land in Champagne, France is extremely expensive. We’re talking many millions of Francs to purchase vineyard land. Spain does not have the same hefty price tag. Secondly, there is less demand. Champagne has a certain reputation and name recognition to it that Cava doesn’t. Seems like a silly thing to add a price to, but it does influence how much you’re paying. So if you ask us, getting sparkling wine that is made in the same method as Champagne, with great grapes, but for a smaller price? Sign us up! To make sure you’re getting a quality Cava, look for labels that say ‘Reserva’ or ‘Gran Reserva’.
No matter what you’re celebrating (or better yet, what you’re not), we hope you start taking a chance on the many options available in the sparkling wine world. We’ve only listed 3 kinds here, but there is still more to explore with Lambrusco, Crémant, Loire, etc. So get your glasses out and get tasting!