SPARKLING WINE BEYOND CHAMPAGNE
The lively, effervescent bubbles of sparkling wine rising up in your glass elevate your mood with it! A reason why popping a bottle of bubbly to mark a special moment has become popular.
Most often we tend to associate sparkling wine with Champagne. But in reality, sparkling wine is the category, and Champagne is just one of the many sparkling wines. There are other sparkling wines like Cava, Prosecco, Sekt, Crémant etcetera. They differ in the way they are produced, the region where they come from, the grapes used and how they taste.
Popular Sparkling wines
Champagne: This is the most prestigious and dominant sparkling wine in the world. So much so, that it has become a generic term for sparkling wine for many. However, like Scotch whisky, for any sparkling wine to be legally labeled Champagne, the wine must be made in, and from grapes grown in the Champagne region of north-eastern France. A combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier grapes are allowed in Champagne production.
So, why is Champagne so expensive? Many reasons. One, the geography of the region itself and the harsh climatic conditions under which the grapes are grown; two, the rigorous, labor intensive and time consuming winemaking process; three, the heritage of some of the France’s Champagne houses; and four, its symbolic association with luxury.
Taste: Champagne has tiny, fine bubbles, high acidity, and is typically a dry style. It is rich, creamy and complex with signature nutty or toasty notes.
Styles of Champagne: Non-Vintage/Vintage, Prestige cuvée, Blanc de noirs, Blanc de blancs, Rosé Champagne
Production method: Méthode Champenoise
Cava: Cava is a sparkling wine that comes from Spain and is primarily made using native grapes like Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada. But more recently, Chardonnay and Pinot grapes are also being used. Though more than 95% of Cava is produced in the Penedès region of Catalonia; there are other places in Spain like Aragon, Valencia, Extremadura and La Rioja are also known to produce this wine.
It can be said that Cava is the closest alternative to Champagne but at the fraction of a price. Cava was modelled after Champagne. Hence, it follows the same production process as Champagne. The difference is in the ageing period of these two sparkling wines during the second fermentation, which influences the flavors of the final products.
Fun fact: In 1970, recognizing the EU regulations, winemakers in Spain officially adopted the name Cava to differentiate itself from French Champagne. Until then, it was known as Champán or Champaña (Spanish Champagne) and continues to be colloquially called so by the older generation in the villages of Spain.
Taste: Like Champagne, Cava is typically dry and shows fine bubbles. It has a light to medium-bodied profile and softer acidity (than Champagne) with zesty citrus and earthy flavors, and faint floral aromas. Aged Cavas tend to develop a pronounced nuttiness.
Styles of Cava: Joven (or young) Cava, Reserva Cava, Gran Reserva Cava
Production method: Méthode Traditionnelle (Traditional method)
Prosecco: This is Italy’s most widely known sparkling wine. Prosecco comes from a small geographic area between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene in Veneto, northeast Italy, and is controlled by the wine laws (DOC and DOCG) of the region. The wine is made with a highly aromatic local grape variety called Glera. The production method of Prosecco is notably different from Champagne or Cava, which is why this delightful sparkling wine is less complex. In fact, based on its winning combination of excellent quality and affordable price tag, Prosecco has earned the fame of being an ‘everyday' sparkling wine.
Unlike Champagne, Prosecco does not improve with age. Therefore, the crisp flavors of Prosecco are meant to be enjoyed as young as possible - within 2 years of its vintage is ideal. It can be made in fully sparkling (spumante) and lightly sparkling (frizzante) styles.
Fun fact: The name Prosecco is derived from a small Italian village by the same name, where the wine was invented in the 16th century.
Taste: Prosecco is a light-bodied, refreshing, clean, highly aromatic sparkling wine, full of fresh fruit flavors. It has a medium to high acidity and bigger, frothy bubbles. Prosecco has lower alcohol content than other sparkling wines and tends to be little sweeter than Champagne or Cava.
Styles of Prosecco: Prosecco DOC, Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG, Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG, Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore Rive DOCG, Superiore di Cartizze
Production method: Charmat method (Tank method)
Other sparkling wines
Crémant: It is a term used to describe a sparkling wine that can be produced in specific regions of France such as Limoux, Loire and Burgundy, other than the Champage region. Crémant regulations are only slightly less stringent than those in Champagne, and the grapes used varies from region to region. The wine is made with the same technique as Champagne. Crémant literally means creamy, and that’s what the bubbles are, although slightly less effervescent than Champagne. Like Cava, this is another great alternative to Champagne.
Sekt: This particular sparkling wine is produced in Germany and Austria. However, unlike the word “Champagne”, “Sekt” is not a protected term. Most of the Sekt wine is made using Charmat (Tank) method like Prosecco, but the high quality ones use traditional method as they do in Champagne. Both native grape varieties (Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris) and classic grapes (like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) are used. The wine has a natural acidity, fruity and floral aromas, and low level of alcohol.
Lambrusco: This is a lightly sparkling (frizzante style) red wine from the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. Lambrusco also refers to the family of very old grape varieties native to Italy. There are over 60 varieties of Lambrusco grapes and the Lambrusco wines are most often a blend of these distinct varieties, each with a unique taste profile. The wine can be produced using any of these three methods: Charmat, Traditional or Ancestrale. Though Lambrusco is often thought of as a sweet wine, it can be produced in either a dry or sweet style.
Franciacorta: A sparkling wine with DOCG status, from the Lombardy region in Italy. It is made in the Methode Champenoise from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc grape varieties. The wines tend to be riper and fuller and can lack the zesty acidity and minerality of Champagne.
Moscato d’ Asti: It is a slightly fizzy (frizzante style), dessert wine from the Piemonte region of Northern Italy. Moscato d’Asti has Italy’s top DOCG wine classification and is made with Moscato Bianco (white) grapes. The classic Moscato d'Asti wine is characterized by elegant floral aromas.
Sparkling wines are produced in almost every wine producing country, including India. So, irrespective of where it comes from there is a sparkling wine for every budget. Good moods, fine times and happy experiences are now just a bottle away.