What You Need to Know About Sparkling Wine
We all know the celebratory “pop” a bottle of sparkling wine makes when it is opened. We all know what to do with a glass of sparkling wine once it hits our hand. The most complicated wine in the world is, for many, the easiest and least intimidating wine to drink.
Dom Perignon, Veuve-Clicquot, and Krug are names with which we are all familiar and that many of us have tried at least once in our lives, even when the cost is in the hundreds. But what is sparkling wine, really? How is it made? Where did it come from? Why is it used in celebration, and what else is it good for?
All Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne
The first thing we need to know is that all Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne. Champagne is simply a town in northeastern France that produces some of the finest sparkling wine in the world. It is also considered to be the birthplace of sparkling wine, discovered accidentally by monks. The famous Dom Perignon is credited with making it on purpose for the first time in the 15th century. Sparkling wines of the 1600s were actually sweet and remained sweet until the 1800s, when Perrier Jouet decided to start making them dry.
How it is made
There are three main ways in which sparkling wine is made. The truest way is called the Traditional Method. First, white wine is made with grapes like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, or grapes similar in style, depending on which region of the world that you are in. Next, the wine is bottled and a mixture of sugar and yeast is added to the bottle to kick off a second fermentation. This is where the bubbles come from.
Less expensive sparkling wine is made by simply adding the sugar and yeast to a large tank of wine, followed immediately by bottling. This technique is often called the Charmat Method and is the method used for Prosecco in Italy.
The cheapest way to make sparkling wine is to bottle the white wine and then to carbonate it like soda. This method is often referred to as the Soda Method.
Why do we celebrate with sparkling wine?
Sparkling wine was, and still is, harder to make than still wine. So it originally demanded a much higher price, leaving it for only the privileged to buy on a regular basis. The curiosity of having wine that bubbles, and the high social status that came with it, made it desirable, but because of the cost most people could only rarely afford the expense. It therefore became the go-to wine for special occasions.
Sparkling is much more accessible and much less expensive now, in general. It is more than just a liquid for spraying around and toasting during special occasions. It is complex and versatile. Sparkling pairs well with tons of different foods, from chocolate banana pancakes for breakfast, to grilled cheese for lunch, to sautéed seafood for dinner. It pairs lovely with fruit plates and chocolate bars, and is considered one of the most refreshing types of wine to drink after a good work out or hard day of work.
The most important thing to know about sparkling wine is that it brings joy! It brings life to any setting and brings class to any table. It is represented in movies and songs, used to christen ships and planes, and to shower over victors during sporting events. At Tansey Reviews we are excited about bubbles! We have reviewed sparkling wines from all over the world. From Spanish Cava to Italian Prosecco and of course, French Champagne, each review is an open door to the world of wine. There is useful knowledge here in the land of bubbly, for every wine drinker–both beginner and connoisseur. Cheers! Eric Tansey, CSW, Sommelier.