As I sit in my living room on this Tuesday morning, still feeling the effects of thanksgiving weekend, I start to think about bubbles. This is by far my favorite type of wine. I know everyone agrees that nothing livens up a party like hearing the pop of a sparkling wine. Don’t let the “party wine” fool you. Sparkling wine may be one of the more diverse wines out there. The acidity mixed with varying dosage (sugar) levels and low alcohol pair perfectly with a variety of foods. Higher dosage wines love the spicy foods of the world. (sweet beats heat)
The lingo that you will see on the bottle, that explains those levels, are as follows
- Brut Zero/Natural/Zero Dosage= bone dry 0.0-0.5% Residual sugar (RS)
- Brut= Dry 0.5-1.5% RS
- Extra Dry= Off Dry (touch of sweetness) 1.5-2.0%RS
- Demi Sec= Slightly Sweet 2.0-3.5%RS
- Sec= Sweet 3.5-5.0%RS
- Doux= Very Sweet 5.0+
You may ask yourself, “Why has he not said the word Champagne yet?” Well… that leads me to the most important thing about bubbly, you cannot call it Champagneunless it is from Champagne, France!!! For example, in Spain it is called Cava and in Italy it is often called Prosecco. The best way to say it is “All Champagne is sparkling, but not all sparkling is Champagne.” Every vintner in the world tries to mimic the fine product of Champagne, year after year. The pedestal is so high that the name for sparkling outside of Champagne is called methode champenoise (me-thud cham-pen-wa) or easily said method Champagne.
There are a few common ways to produce bubbles, one is the traditional method (aka Champagne), they ferment it normally and then secondary ferment it in the bottle. They do this to increase the alcohol and naturally create CO2. Then producers age the wine upside down on its lees (yeast particles) to develop texture. Another way is the “tank method” which is used to produce Prosecco. Different from traditional method because the secondary fermentation occurs in a pressurized tank, then filtered and bottled with no aging.
In the region of Champagne, the wine is strictly made with three grapes, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier. Pinot Noir adds the spice and red fruit flavors. Chardonnay adds acidity and sharp flavors like green apple and citrus. Pinot Meunier adds texture, filling any flavor holes. When blended together you will experience toasted brioche, roasted nuts, tart citrus and minerality.
In the region of Cava or Catalonia, Spain, the grapes used are indigenous to the area. These grapes include Parellada, Viura, and Xarel-lo. Often in Cava, blends of these wines occur producing minerality, earthly qualities and spice.
As far as the U.S goes, the quality sparkling is produced using Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Attempting to imitate Champagne the palate will experience red fruit from the Pinot Noir and green apple citrus from the Chardonnay.
Sparkling wine is white wine that is pleasantly diverse compared to most wines of the world. Next time you go out, have a nice dinner or order a late-night sopping in grease pizza, drink bubbles. You may not have a specific reason to celebrate but your taste buds sure will.
Below are my top picks to get those bubbles poppin. Remember the producer of the wine is crucial. Gruet and Vilmart are clickable links available on amazon.
Raventos i Blanc “Blanc de Blanc” 2015 ($18-20)
NV Gruet Brut, Methode Champenoise Sparkling Wine 750 mL
NV Vilmart & Cie Champagne Champagne 750 mL
Champagne Aubry Brut ($38-41)
Sparkling wine is one of my favorite wines. Bright and expressive flavors will always keep you coming back for more.