With all the parties and festivities at this time of year, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to take a look at the world of sparkling wine. Not all sparkling wine is the same. Different grapes and production methods, different levels of sweetness and fizziness together create a varied and delicious category. Here are some of the highlights.
The bubbles of this style of sparkling wine are produced within the wine bottle itself. These bubbles are generally the finest and most profuse. The wines the most complex. There is a huge price range for Traditional Method sparkling wine, so let’s take a look at what is out there.
Champagne comes from the Champagne region of France. Period. It is the king of traditional method sparkling wine. Its wines also the king of price with an entry level of approximately $50. Some of the producers are very well known: Veuve Clicquot, Pol Roger, Taittinger; but a new breed of winemakers has arrived. Look for Récoltant Manipulant or grower/producer on the label. These wines are made by families with grapes from their own estates and are generally less expensive than Champagne from the big houses.
Other traditional method sparkling wines include:
Crémant sparkling wines are made with the same method as Champagne but originate from other regions in France. They usually cost around $20 and are a great value. Look for Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant de la Loire and Crément d’Alsace.
Spain produces tasty sparkling wine known as Cava. These are reasonably priced wines in and if you plan on opening more than one bottle, this is a good choice.
Franciacorta, from the Lombardy region in the north of Italy, is less expensive than Champagne but remains on the pricy side. A positive feature of this wine is that it is generally aged longer than Champagne and therefore, frequently has more complex aromas and flavours.
Many other regions around the world produce their own traditional method sparkling wine. In fact, we have many producers right in our own backyard. In Prince Edward County, Hinterland produces a tasty sparkler called Les Etoiles; and in Nova Scotia, Benjamin Bridge also produces an exceptional product.
Charmat or Tank Method
The bubbles in this wine are produced while the wine is in a large, pressurized vat and then is bottled under pressure.
Prosecco is the best known charmat-style sparkling wine. It is generally fresh and fruity in flavour, and doesn’t develop the complex aromas as does traditional method sparkling wines. It is meant to be consumed young. The top quality Prosecco wines come from Valdobbiadene region of Italy. Prices are generally between $15-20 but can be higher for the top examples.
Moscato d’Asti, from Piedmont in the north of Italy, is a lightly bubbled, low alcohol sweet wine made from the Moscato grape. Highly aromatic, it has become very popular in the North American market.