A Complete Guide About Wine: Understanding Sparkling Wine
In this article, we will discuss the similarities and differences between champagne and sparkling wine. If you’re curious and need some help in understanding sparkling wine, then this is the perfect guide for you. Read on to find out the history, popular types, flavor profile, food pairing and more!
Sparkling Wine 101: The History
What makes a sparkling wine stand out? It’s the signature fizz of course! But do you know that the popular sparkling wine is a product born out of accidental discovery?
Story told a famous myth involving a renowned French wine maker, Dom Perignon. Back in the 1600’s, when he was bottling wine like normal as he thought that the yeast had already finished converting all the sugar to alcohol. It turned out that some of the yeasts had simply not functioned due to low temperatures. When it heated up, the yeasts began to process the sugar and produced carbon dioxide at the same time. The gas or fizz was unable to escape from the bottle and was absorbed by the wine. When Dom Perignon came back to check the state of the wine, he was pleasantly surprised to open the bottle with a ‘pop’ and tasted the tasty fizz. It is believed that that was the moment the famous sentence, “Come, I am drinking stars,” was first uttered.
The French then began to territorialize sparkling wine thus the specific Champagne, which refers to the area where the varietals of grapes are grown. This also explains why, “All champagnes are sparkling wines, but not all sparkling wines can be called champagne.” Just a small matter of territory, but big difference!
Understanding the popular styles of sparkling wine (that is not champagne)
Prosecco came from Veneto in Northern Italy. It’s made from the glera grape variety with a fresh, clean and lively taste. This type of grape also produces a dry, brut style. The sweetness of Prosecco is characterized by the flavours of apple, melon and pear. These are often balanced with a touch of citrus or rounded out with peach for a creamier finish. You’re also likely to note that prosecco bubbles are light and frothy, leaving a welcome tingle on your tongue.
A Spanish sparkling wine that tends to be on the dry side. Full of crisp apple flavours, cava is produced in the same way that champagne is made, but with different grapes. The three main grapes are macabeu, parellada and xarel·lo. Cava can be white or a rosé, but it isn’t usually sweet. Instead you’ll often find that it has pear and melon notes, with faint floral aromatics. Aside from tasting delicious, cava is also renowned for being great value for money.
- Australian Sparkling
Australia is fast establishing itself as a competitor to the French. Much of Australia’s wine country is too hot to make truly great sparkling, but in some of the cooler and higher regions in the south, Australia has begun producing some world-class bubbles. Much like the Champagne choice of grapes, mostly the technique involves blending chardonnay, pinot noir and meunier.
Know Your Sweetness
Sparkling wine has different sweetness which can define individual taste. The scale of sweetness differs based on the term below:
- Brut Nature: 0-3 g/L of expected residual sugar left in the wine ( not sweet)
- Extra Brut: 0-6 g/L of expected residual sugar ( slightly sweet)
- Brut: 0-12 g/L, this is a dry wine with a hint of sweetness and the most popular sparkler.
- Extra dry: 12-17 g/L, it’s the type that best describes Prosecco. It has a slightly enhanced sweetness.
- Dry: 17-32 g/L, these wines pair remarkably well with food (salty, buttery snacks).
- Demi-Sec: 35-50 g/L, sweet and pairable with dessert
- Doux: 50+ g/L for those who are the most passionate about sweetness.
When you know which level of sweetness you prefer, you can try pairing sparkling wine based on its residual sugar.
Dry sparkling wines will pair best with something adventurous, such as not to sweet and delicate pastries, light tapas, smoked salmon, avocado and sushi. Mature cheeses will also make a wonderful choice. Avoid pairing dry sparkling wine with sweet dessert, such as cake. Go with Demi-Sec or Doux to have the perfect sweet balance.
Brut also works great with clams, oysters and shellfish dishes, including caviar and cheese. Extra dry is great for fried foods, or basically everything.