Sparkling wine is a fun, bubbly treat that’s refreshing and delicious on a hot summer day or festive for a celebration of any kind. You might think that the category of sparkling wine is limited to champagne and prosecco, but there are so many other kinds of sparkling wine out there.
Sparkling wine has been around for centuries and is still enjoyed all over the world. It’s a sign of celebration, but it can be enjoyed even without a special occasion. In this article, we’ll tell you all about the history of sparkling wine, break down the different types, and give you some recommendations for brands and bottles you’re sure to adore.
History of sparkling wine
Blanquette de Limoux is a traditional sparkling wine that first shows up in writings as far back as 1531 from the monks of Saint-Hilaire. It’s mainly made from Mauzac grapes and has unique apple-peel aromas and flavors. It was first made using the ancestral method, during which fermentation stops early, and the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle. Some have suggested that this technique was a happy accident, where the winter weather halted fermentation, and the yeast woke up in the spring when temperatures warmed.
When a wine has bubbles, it’s a sign that it has continued to ferment inside the bottle. For much of the history of wine production, it was considered a failure when wine developed bubbles, a sign that the wine had gone bad. While some vineyards, like the one in Limoux, were intentionally creating sparkling wine as early as the 1500s, it was only in the late 1600s that sparkling wines began to be respected. The place responsible for this was, you guessed it, Champagne, France.
Wines from Champagne have a tendency to fizz because early frosts often led to incomplete fermentation during the manufacturing process. When temperatures rose in the spring, the wine would continue its fermentation and begin to sparkle. Fizzy Champagne became popular in Georgian England before it gained popularity in the courts and chateaus of pre-Revolutionary France. Barrels of Champagne were shipped across the channel and bottled there.
Many credit the monk Dom Pierre Pérignon (Dom Pérignon is named) for planting the first vines in Champagne. He is also credited with observing the sparkling wines of Limoux and bringing them to Champagne internationally. Unfortunately, he died in 1715, before any commercial production began. After his death, Champagne houses like Ruinart and Moët & Chandon were founded.
In 1772, Madame Clicquot took over her deceased husband’s wine business, Veuve Clicquot. She was vital to the history of champagne production because she invented the riddling process to remove yeast after the secondary fermentation, creating the traditional method for fermenting champagne.
Meanwhile, in Italy, Prosecco production was beginning as well. It was made using the same ancestral method that Champagne began with, and written records of Prosecco date back all the way to 1754. In 1895, the Charmat method was invented. The Charmat method dictates that the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in a pressurized tank, then gets filtered and bottled under pressure. This method made Prosecco much more affordable to produce, leading to its reputation as a cheaper alternative to champagne.
Other countries around the world began to produce their own interpretations of Champagne as its popularity grew. In Spain, a winemaker named Josep Raventós Fatjó began production of sparkling wine using the traditional method and founded the wine region of Cava. Sparkling wines have been produced in California since the 1860s, except for the Prohibition era.
Most popular types of sparkling wine
Today, sparkling wine production continues to grow and evolve, and sparkling wines are more popular than ever. Sparkling wines are produced worldwide, from traditional France and Italy to Spain, the United States, South Africa, England, and Germany. Each nation produced its own variety of sparkling wines. We’ll break down the different types and their differences below.
Champagne is thought of as the original sparkling wine and is definitely the most well-known around the world. It’s only considered true Champagne if it’s made in the Champagne region of France. Champagne is a sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne.
Champagne is extremely versatile and can be served with anything from brunch to fried food. It has smaller bubbles that produce a fruity but not overly sweet taste.
Prosecco gets its name from the region it originated in Prosecco, Italy. After Champagne, it’s probably the second most popular variety of sparkling wine and is often seen as the more affordable alternative. Prosecco is made from Glera grapes and tends to be on the sweeter side.
Prosecco is made using the Charmat, or tank method, which involves the wine undergoing secondary fermentation in a pressurized tank. This causes the Prosecco to develop larger bubbles. Prosecco can be enjoyed on its own, but it also makes a wonderful addition to cocktails.
Cava is the Spanish answer to Champagne and Prosecco. It originated from a region in Spain called Catalonia and was invented by Josep Raventós Fatjó, whose family had been making wine for generations. The story goes, Josep was so pleased with the sparkling wine creation that he immediately called for a cave, or cava in Spanish, to be dug. So, he could produce more, and that’s why Cava became the name of the regional destination.
Cava is produced using the traditional method and is primarily made from a Spanish grape, Macabeo, which gives it a fresh, lemony flavor. It can also be made with Xarello and Parellada grapes, which have fruity undertones of pear and citrus. Cava has floral aromas and is a lot less sweet than Prosecco.
Crémant is a type of sparkling wine produced in France but can come from many regions, like Limoux, Loire, and Burgundy. It is made using the same traditional method as Champagne and can have different flavor notes depending on the type of grapes used to make it. Most types have a creamy or nutty flavor, rather than sweet like Prosecco.
Sekt is a type of sparkling wine produced in Germany and is known for its low sweetness and reduced alcohol content. Sekt can have as low as 6% alcohol levels and can contain fruity and floral aromas, such as apples, pears, and white flowers. Sekt has a natural acidity and fruitiness that makes it extremely distinctive and delicious. It can be made using either the traditional method or the tank method.
Rosé can be made still but is very popular in its sparkling, bubbly form. Rosé is known for its gorgeous pink hue and fruity aroma. Some of the more common flavors found in rosé are strawberry, citrus, honeydew, rose petal, and rhubarb. Rosé doesn’t have to come from a specific region and is made everywhere from Italy to California. However, it is most commonly produced in Provence, France.
American Sparkling Wine
In the United States, there are no laws about what grapes can be included in what wines like some other countries do, so just about any wine can be made sparkling. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the common choices. Sparkling wines are produced commonly in California and upstate New York. New Mexico’s Gruet and the North Coast’s Schramsberg are good varieties to try.
Sparkling Wine Recommendations
- Moët & Chandon – Impérial Brut: Moët & Chandon is a classic French Champagne, though it’s more affordable than something like a Dom Pérignon. It has lovely pear and orange notes, with more surprising flavors of toasted grain and sweet butter.
- La Marca Prosecco: La Marca is a wonderful, affordable Italian Prosecco. It’s sweet and fruity, with flavors of sweet apple, pear, white peach, and apricot. It’s great for sipping or for making mimosas.
- Veuve Clicquot – Champagne Rosé: This Rosé Champagne from France is the best of both worlds. It’s luxurious and bubbly, with notes of musky orchard fruits like dried fig, smoky pear, and nectarine. It’s a bit more towards the pricey end of the spectrum, but you’ll be able to taste the difference in the quality.
- Chandon – Blanc de Noirs: This is a sparkling wine made in California, with full-flavored notes of cherry, currant, and strawberry. It is made from Pinot Noir grapes, but has a golden straw color and a light, airy feeling when sipped.
- Barefoot Bubbly – Red Moscato: If you’re looking for a sparkling wine on the red end of the spectrum, look no further than Barefoot Bubbly’s Red Moscato. It’s sweet, with a delightfully fruity nose, and delicious flavor notes of cherry, raspberry, and citrus.
- Dom Pérignon Champagne: Of course, no list of sparkling wine recommendations would be complete without Dom. It’s rich, luxurious, and classic. Yes, it’s a bit more expensive, but for special occasions, it’s so worth it. You can never go wrong with the original.
If you’ve always been confused by the difference between Champagne and Prosecco, hopefully, this article has cleared it up for you. There are so many different amazing sparkling wines to try that are light, refreshing, and delicious. Peruse Saucey’s amazing selection of Champagnes and sparkling wines, and get them delivered to your door quickly, with no delivery minimums.