The essence of bubbles
Many countries around the world make sparkling wine, each of them unique. The best-known sparkling wine is, of course, Champagne. Though so much sparkling wine is referred to as Champagne, true Champagne must come from the namesake area and is one of a kind in taste, texture and reputation. The region is responsible for perfecting the bubble-making process, often referred to as methode champanoise or traditional method. The basic tenets of the traditional method are:
- Only three grapes are used – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier
- Secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle
Beyond those rules, there are many details involved that make Champagne and its method of winemaking so distinctive, which is why it is emulated in so many winemaking areas. The categories of Champagne, and wine in the Champagne style, include vintage and include non-vintage, as well as include rosé.
In the US, California leads the way in sparkling wine made in the traditional method. Many wineries in California are owned and operated by Champagne house companies, and you may find the California bottles similar in style to their French counterparts. Other US producers include New Mexico and Oregon. Around the globe, sparkling wine hails from Australia, South Africa, Canada and South America, to name a few.
In Spain and Italy, Cava & Prosecco are the regional bubbles, both often made in traditional style. These are light and fruity sparklers that are often in the less-than-$15 category, which make them perfect for everyday enjoyment.
Reading the Label
Some Champagne & Sparkling wines have all 3 grapes, some have one or two.
- Blanc de Blanc – means “white of white” and is made only of Chardonnay; lighter in style, perfect with shellfish and seafood.
- Blanc de Noir – means “white of black” and is a white champagne made from either Pinot Noir or both Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier both red grapes); usually fuller-bodied than blanc de blanc, this style can match with a variety of foods.
- Rosé – could be only one grape or all three, but must contain some percentage of a red grape. Can be robust in style and hold its own with a dinner.
Champagne & Sparkling Styles
Some Champagnes & Sparkling wines are bone dry, while others are off-dry and still others are sweet. The level of sweetness depends on the last step before the cork, dosage.
- Extra Brut or Brut Naturale – Bone dry – the driest of the dry
- Brut – Dry. This is the typical style of Champagne, with no sweetness
- Sec – Still very dry but with a hint of sweetness.
- Demi-sec- While the definition is half dry, think of it as half sweet. This wine will be fairly sweet.
- Doux – also known as rich, this wine is the sweetest you can get in Champagne –over 5% sugar. It’s a dessert in itself and very rare.