Sparkling wine sparkles because of carbon dioxide. That carbon dioxide in almost every case, comes naturally from the fermentation process. The first fermentation in wine is what turns wine from grape juice, to… well, wine. In sparkling wines, a second fermentation happens to produce the sparkle. Depending upon the method used, either the method Champenoise (as in Champagne), otherwise known as the traditional method or the Charmat method, that fermentation happens in the bottle, or a larger tank.
This discovery, long credited to Dom Perignon in Champagne may even date further back to what is known as the méthode ancestral, or the ancestral method, developed in Limoux in the 15oos. The ancestral method differs in that the first fermentation is not complete when the wine is bottled and there is no disgorgement, (or removal of the spent yeast cells) and the wines are often very funky. This style is experiencing a renaissance in the natural wine movement, particularly the pétillant-naturel, popularly pét-nat.
How ever that sparkle is added, we all love sparkling wine, and so I offer you a variety of options, at a variety of price points for every day, or special occasion celebration.
A stellar example of why cava should be a go-to sparkling wine for the everyday celebration as well as those special occasions. A blend of the classical Cava grapes, Macabeo, Parellad and Xarello, all made in the the traditional method, the same used in Champagne. This is a lush cava that seriously over-delivers on its humble price tag. Effusive aromas of jasmine and honeysuckle, and hints of early season pear, the palate is rich and nutty, the wine’s effervescence accents its complexity and playfulness.
A pink sparkler that is a completely different blend than you might typically expect. Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Mauzac and Pinot Noir from the Languedoc. A pretty pink hue and bright aromas make this bit of varietal exploration a winner. Produced in the same way as Champagne this wine spends 15 months in bottle before it’s ready to be popped. Think strawberries and creme meets apple blossom aromatics. The palate is bright, it pops with fresh fruit flavors and is loaded with bubbles. This wine is bright, fresh and delicious. The pricetag is absolutely laughable; at $15 make this rosé everyday celebration, after all life is short.
While Prosecco is traditionally made from the Glera grape, this bottling includes a blend of two other grapes, Pinot Bianco (Blanc) and Verdiso. The result is still what Prosecco has come to be known for, bright aromas and flavors with fruit forward aromas, along with rich yet zippy flavors of cut Bartlett pear and a depth of palate that makes Prosecco a promising sparkling wine to pair with a full meal. That’s what the Italians in the Prosecco proud towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiandene would do.
Urge to Splurge?
If you’re going to splurge on a wine purchase, do it for Champagne. The Brut Reserve from Palmer is actually a fairly priced bottle of Champagne that reveals what makes this region and these wines so special. Aromas of brioche, poached pear and hazelnut and a rich palate that is classically Champagne while remaining fresh and bright. This bottling blends all three predominant Champagne varieties, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.
This Brut Reserve is a blend of 60 different vineyards and several different vintages. Up to 40% of this wine is comprised of Heidseick’s reserve wines, some of which are as many as 10 vintages old. The wine once bottled undergoes fermentation and aging in ancient chalk caves. Couple the region’s unmistakable terroir and high standards and the time spent in bottle for the second fermentation and this wine is everything that is classic about Champagne.
Notes of creme brûlée, toasted bread and lemon creme in an aromatically opulent sparkling wine. The palate is rich and deep with layers of flavor complexity that is hard to rival in sparkling wines outside of this special part of France. Creamy and nutty, mouth filling roundness mixes with ample acidity and great effervescence.