Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sparkling Wine 101

Photo credit:  theartofbottledpoetry.com
In the spirit of the 2nd Annual Virginia Sparkling Wine Blind Tasting that occurred last Saturday at Jefferson Vineyards (more on that, later) here’s some of the ‘skinny’ on sparkling wine:

There are four methods commonly used to make sparkling wine:
  1. Adding carbon dioxide to the wine in the bottle
  2. Traditional Method – natural fermentation occuring in the bottle (also referred to as the Champagne  or Champenoise method)
  3. Charmat Process –this is when the wine undergoes secondary fermentation in a large tank and is bottled under pressure (the method used for Prosecco)
  4. Transfer MethodThis method will take the cuvée to bottle for secondary fermentation, which allows for the additional complexity, but then will transfer the wine out of the individual bottles into a larger tank after it has spent the desired amount of time on yeast.

Photo credit:  Adrian Bryska

Champagne of course is the classic sparkling wine made exclusively in the Champagne region of France.  Mousseu or Crémant are terms used to refer to sparkling wines made outside of the Champagne region.
Crémant sparkling wines are produced using the traditional method, and have to fulfill strict production criteria.  In France, there are seven appellations for sparkling wine which include the designation Crémant in their name:
  • Crémant d'Alsace
  • Crémant de Bordeaux
  • Crémant de Bourgogne
  • Crémant de Die
  • Crémant du Jura
  • Crémant de Limoux
  •  Crémant de Loire

Prosecco is an Italian white wine — generally a Dry or Extra Dry sparkling wine— normally made from Glera ("Prosecco") grapes. Prosecco is known as the main ingredient of the Bellini cocktail.

Sekt is the German term for quality sparkling wine. The majority of Sekt produced is made by the Charmat method with the remaining premium Sekt being made according to the Traditional Method.

Cava is the name of a type of Spanish white or pink sparkling wine produced mainly in the Penedès region in Catalonia.

Other Sparkling wines are usually white or rose, but there are some sparkling reds such as Italian Brachetto and Australian sparkling Shiraz.

Blanc de Blancs – white of whites, 100% chardonnay
Brut - very dry  
  • Brut Natural or Brut Zéro (fewer than 3 grams of sugar per liter)
  •  Extra Brut (fewer than 6 grams of sugar per liter)
  • Brut (fewer than 12 grams of sugar per liter)
Doux - sweet

Interesting Fact (thanks Wikipedia)
While Dom Perignon is often credited with inventing Champagne, he actually spent most of his life trying to prevent the wine from developing bubbles.

Where to find in Virginia
Many Virginia wineries are now making sparkling wines.  These include Paradise Springs, Veritas, BarboursvilleAfton Mountain, Thibaut-Jannison, Kluge/Trump, Prince Michel, Horton Vineyards, and Old House Vineyards.

Be sure to check some out on your next winery visit!

Photo credit: makeitfromscratch.blogspot.com


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