Sparkling wine is a popular beverage that many people enjoy for celebrations or as a refreshing drink. Yet, there is a vast and complex world behind this effervescent drink that many may not be familiar with. From the regions where the wine is produced to the various methods used to create the bubbles that make it unique, there is much to learn and appreciate about sparkling wine. In this article, we will explore the production methods and different styles of sparkling wine worldwide. Whether you are a seasoned wine connoisseur or just starting to explore the world of wine, this article will provide valuable insights into the fascinating world of sparkling wine.
Sparkling wine is a type of wine with bubbles in it. You can find a sparkling wine to suit everyone’s taste, whether you like it crisp and dry Brut or a sweeter Demi-Sec. People often have sparkling wine on special occasions, but it’s also suitable for everyday drinking or with food, especially cheese. It can go well with mild or spicy cheeses and helps to clean the taste from your mouth. Champagne is France’s most well-known sparkling wine, but other countries make excellent sparkling wines, each with a unique taste. Italy makes Prosecco, and Spain has Cava, for example.
The serving temperature of sparkling wine is typically between 4 and 10°C (40 and 50°F).
This temperature range allows the flavours and aromas of the wine to be fully appreciated. Serving sparkling wine too cold can mute the flavours and make it difficult to taste all the nuances of the wine. On the other hand, serving it too warm can cause the bubbles to dissipate quickly and make the wine taste flat.
Note that this temperature recommendation is general guidelines and has specific variations.
Most common characteristics:
|Brut Nature||light||dry||dry – no added sugar 0-3 g/l||low|
|Extra Brut||light||high||dry 0-6 g/l||low|
|Brut||light||high||dry 0-12 g/l||low|
|Extra Dry/Extra Sec/Extra Seco||medium||medium||off-dry 12-17 g/l||low|
|Sec/Dry||medium||medium||semi-sweet 17-35 g/l||low|
|Semi Sec/Semi-Dry||medium||medium||semi-sweet 33-50 g/l||low|
|Sweet/Doux/Dulce||full||perceived as low||sweet > 50 g/l||low|
Sparkling wine production methods
There are various methods for producing sparkling wine, but the two most common methods are the traditional method (also known as the “méthode champenoise” – Champagne method) and the Charmat method (also known as the tank method). There are also other methods, such as the transfer and carbonation methods, but these are less commonly used.
The traditional method is commonly used for high-quality sparkling wines.
In the traditional method, the wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle, starting with the addition of a mixture of yeast and sugar (known as the “liqueur de tirage”) to a base wine. The wine is then sealed with a crown cap and allowed to undergo fermentation again. The yeasts consume the sugar, producing carbon dioxide, dissolving into the wine and creating bubbles. After this, the wine goes through a process called riddling, where the yeast sediments are gradually moved to the neck of the bottle. Finally, the neck of the bottle is frozen, the yeast sediment is removed (disgorged), and a dosage (mixture of wine and sugar) is added before final corking.
The Charmat method involves conducting secondary fermentation in a pressurized tank instead of individual bottles. The base wine is placed in a tank with sugar and yeast, and the fermentation occurs, producing CO2 and forming bubbles. After the secondary fermentation, the Charmat method typically involves a shorter aging period in the tank. The sediment is removed through filtration before bottling under pressure, avoiding the need for racking or transferring the wine.
This method produces less complex wines than the traditional method and is meant to be consumed young. With its shorter aging time, the Charmat method is often used for producing wines with fresher, fruitier profiles.
The carbonation method, also known as the injection method, is a simpler and less time-consuming process. This method directly injects carbon dioxide gas into the base wine to create bubbles. This is done under pressure in a sealed tank. Once the desired level of carbonation is achieved, the wine is stabilized, filtered, and bottled.
This method uses secondary fermentation in a sealed tank instead of individual bottles. Once the fermentation is complete, the wine is transferred or “racked” from the tank to individual bottles, leaving the sediment behind. The tank is typically angled to transfer the wine, and the bottles are placed upside down with their necks submerged in the wine. The pressure inside the tank pushes the wine into the bottles while the sediment settles in the neck of the bottle. The bottles are then quickly uncapped, and a dosage (wine and sugar mixture) is added based on the desired sweetness level. A cork and wire cage are then used to seal the bottles. The transfer method requires the wine to be aged in individual bottles, similar to the traditional method. It is considered less labour-intensive than the traditional method as it eliminates the need for individually handling and riddling each bottle. However, it still allows the wine to develop complexity and carbonation, producing quality sparkling wines.
These methods offer different approaches to producing sparkling wine, each with its own unique characteristics and styles.
Sparkling wine should be stored in a cool, dark place, away from direct sunlight. The ideal temperature for storage is between 45-55°F (7-13°C).
Remember to avoid storing your sparkling wine in overly warm or humid areas and to prevent shaking or agitating the bottle before opening, as it can cause the wine to become too foamy.
Storing opened bottle
Open bottles of Sparkling wine should be stored in the refrigerator, preferably upright or sideways to minimize oxidation. The wine should be consumed within two days of opening.
Are you looking for the perfect match?
Wine and cheese go well together. If you have a favourite sparkling wine, pick a cheese that goes with it.
The legendary sparkling wines everyone should know
Several sparkling wines have gained international recognition and are a must-try for any wine lover. Different types of sparkling wines can be white, rosé, or red.
First on the list is Champagne, the most famous and prestigious sparkling wine, produced in the Champagne region of France using the traditional method.
Cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, is also gaining popularity. It is produced in the traditional method but with different grape varieties, resulting in a slightly different flavour profile.
Prosecco, the popular Italian sparkling wine, is another must-try. It is produced using the Charmat method, which gives it a lighter and fruitier taste.
Other lesser-known but equally delicious sparkling wines include Crémant from France, Sekt from Germany, and Lambrusco from Italy.
No matter which you choose, serve it chilled and sip it slowly to fully appreciate the bubbles and flavours.
The classic wine categories include sparkling, white (light, medium and full-bodied), rosé, red (light, medium and full-bodied) and dessert wine.
Sparkling wine is known for its effervescence, with carbon dioxide bubbles naturally forming during fermentation. White (light, medium and full-bodied) wine is usually produced from lighter-coloured grapes with a lighter body and a more delicate flavour. Rosé wine is a pink-coloured wine made from red grapes with a refreshing taste and versatile food pairings. Red (light, medium and full-bodied) wine is typically made from dark-coloured grapes, giving it a deeper colour and bold flavour profile. Dessert wine is a type of wine that is sweet and often served after a meal or paired with desserts.
These classic wine categories are the foundation of the wine industry and the starting point for exploring the many variations and complexities within each category.
This article is part of “How to plan an unforgettable wine & cheese party”
These tips are from my own experience;
I’m neither a party organizer, a sommelier, nor a turophile (a cheese connoisseur).
I just love cheese, wine and spending time with family and friends.
I hope my easy tips will give you the confidence to host a wine and cheese party with a handful of close friends.
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