Getting to Know Sparkling Wine

This is the time of year to celebrate, and occasions call for bubbly! Although sparkling wine may be savored all year round, I find that during this time of year in especially, I enjoy the sound of the cork popping, my special coupe glasses, and the bubbly sensation of a good sparkling wine more frequently. Sparkling wine merely enhances something that is already exceptional. How did those bubbles end up in the bottle, though? It's a little more intense than just giving soda drinks carbonation. Even casual wine drinkers will find the process to be highly fascinating, and it may be a great discussion starter at Christmas parties.

Sparkling Wine 101: A Guide to Understanding Your Sparkle

What exactly qualifies as sparkling wine? It is a fizzy wine that is available in red, white, and even bubbly rosé types. It goes by many names, including Champagne, Cava, and Prosecco, but knowing the differences between them may be as simple as having a basic awareness of the laws, production processes, geographical locations, and grape varieties.

What causes the fizz in sparkling wine?

Sparkling wines are made using two major techniques, each of which produces a unique style and level of carbonation. These are the Tank Method and the Traditional Method (Champagne, Cava) (Prosecco). The transfer method, ancestor method, and carbonation are the additional techniques.

Traditional Method (Methode Champenoise)

This is the most popular and simple way to carbonate wine. For the purpose of making base wine, the grapes are pressed. After that, the wine is bottled, sugar and yeast are added, and the wine then goes through a second fermentation inside the bottle. The wine becomes more alcoholic as a result of the second fermentation, which also produces CO2, traps it in the bottle, and carbonates it.
The temporary cork is taken off after some time, dosage (a concoction of sugar and wine) is applied, and the bottles are corked once again for sale. The process that has been used for years to make Champagne is this one.

Tank Method

Because making sparkling wine using the tank method is less expensive, it has gained popularity. A sizable tank is used for the second fermentation rather than bottling the wine. The tank becomes pressurized as a result of the fermentation's release of CO2. After that, the wine is bottled and corked. Prosecco and Lambrusco are two well-known wines produced using the tank method. This method is less expensive and takes less time to make sparkling wine with more fresh fruit flavours. However, this method won't produce the Champagne's signature autolytic scents and creamy mouthfeel (consider bread, biscuits, or brioche).

Other Methods

The two methods mentioned above are the most typical, but winemakers have also come up with several inventive techniques for adding bubbles to bottles.
For huge bottles (Jeroboam) or smaller split bottles, the transfer procedure is typical. Because the wine ferments in a bottle rather than the bottle it is sold in, this method is identical to the conventional one. The ancient process, which predates the conventional approach, does not need a second fermentation and entails some extremely low temperatures. There are a few producers who employ this technique, but it is most common in the Loire Valley and southern France.
The carbonation process, which simply involves infusing carbon dioxide into the wine, is the least expensive way to produce fizz in a bottle.

Let’s Talk Varieties

Despite the fact that there are several sparkling wine kinds made worldwide, Champagne, Cava, and Prosecco are the three most common types of bubbly.

Be sure to drink some sparkling wines from throughout the world before we go into these specific kinds. Amazing sparkling wine players can be found in America, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Chile, and Argentina. In fact, some major Californian producers have been known to confound us experts during a blind tasting and can rival Champagne.


The Northern French countryside's undulating hills and chalky soils produce excellence in a bottle. With a lengthy history of illustrious houses like Krug, Bollinger, Roederer, Moet, and Clicquot, champagne is a prestige wine. This unique and attractive sparkling wine is an appellation, which means that certain conditions must be satisfied before the beverage can be termed Champagne. The Champagne region of France is required to supply the grapes.

But it goes beyond only the area; there are stringent guidelines for practically every step of the process, from handpicking to the completed product and the grape varieties used (pinot noir, pinot meunier, and chardonnay). The conventional approach, also known as the classic method or the traditional method, must be applied. The traditional process produces a wine that has autolytic smells as a byproduct of the yeast left in the bottle (also known as "lees"). The Champagne production method relies heavily on the lees, which give the wine a creamy texture.

Champagne is more than just a place where identical goods are produced.
The "house style" that Champagne houses have developed over many years in order to maintain consistency in the bottle and a distinct "taste" is what makes it so unique. The flavors range from more robust biscuity flavors to floral and fresh fruit scents. As an illustration, Ruinart is frequently rich and bready while Pol Roger is more fragrant and floral.


One of my favorite go-to sparkling waters is cava. Popular Spanish sparkling wine produced using the same technique but using different grapes, usually less expensive than Champagne. The three principal grapes, Macabeu, Parellada, and Xarel-lo, each contribute a distinctive flavor profile to the final product. Although 98% of Cava's production takes place in Catalonia, Cava DO is the official classification that can be produced anywhere in Spain.

Depending on the dosage, the sweetness of all sparkling wines will vary.
Cava is less fruity than Prosecco since it has a tendency to be a little more savory with overtones of pear and apple. The driest Cava is Brut Nature, with extra brut and brut following. Semi seco is the sweetest variation. Cava typically produces wines that are light and enjoyable to sip. A more matured version, such as a reserva or gran reserva, is what you should go for if you want to sample a glass with greater complexity.


Italian sparkling wine made exclusively in the country's northeast. The lively, fruity qualities of prosecco, which are simple to drink on their own or in cocktails, are the reason for its appeal. The Glera grape, a native Italian varietal that must make up 85% of the wine, is used to manufacture Prosecco using the tank process, also known as the Italian method, Martinotti method, or Charmat method.

On the label, you can find Prosecco DOC and DOCG, which are essentially regulatory designations for superior quality. In general, DOC wine comes from the Venetian province of Treviso and the Italian province of Trieste (Friuli-Venezia Giulia). Within the province of Veneto, 15 communes between the cities of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene are designated as Prosecco DOCG, which is designed to denote the wine's best quality. Spumante and Frizzante on the label denote complete sparkling and semi-sparkling, respectively.

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