Did you know that all sparkling wine starts out as still wine, with no bubbles?
The quality of this base wine is very important, because once the wine is made to sparkle, all of its character will be intensified. In fact, the quality of sparkling wine is judged by aroma, flavor complexity and size of bubbles; the smaller the bubbles, the higher the quality. Learn more about the varieties and origins of sparkling wines below.
Champagne from FranceChampagne is a type of sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France. The vineyards in this region were planted by the Romans and for centuries, royal coronations featured champagne. One of the greatest names in champagne, Dom Perignon, was named for a Benedictine monk and cellarmaster who - contrary to myth and legend - did not actually invent the method for making champagne. To this day, there are 3 traditional grapes used in Champagne: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. They are grapes that are native to this special region of France. The two main towns for Champagne production in the region are Reims and Epernay. The hit parade of Champagne houses in Reims include G.H. Mumm, Taittinger, Piper-Heidsieck, Veuve Clicquot and Ruinart. Epernay’s thoroughfare, Champagne Avenue, is the Rodeo Drive of the big brand bubbly, including Moët & Chandon, Mercier, Martel and Perrier-Jouet.
Sparkling Wine From CaliforniaBubbly made in California is called sparkling wine. Sparkling wines are typically made of a blend of varieties, with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir being the most popular. California’s warm climate means that grapes can ripen perfectly year after year, so the quality and consistency or these bubblies are excellent. This history of making sparkling wine in California is quite interesting. It can be traced to the Sonoma Valley where, in 1892, the Korbel brothers began producing sparkling wine using the traditional French methods. As the wines became more popular, many French Champagne houses came to set up wineries in the California. These include Moët et Chandon’s Domaine Chandon, Louis Roederer’s Roederer Estate, and Taittinger’s Domaine Carneros. The range of colors and styles in California are quite remarkable and well worth exploring!
Prosecco and Asti from ItalyItaly produces many different styles of sparkling wine. Prosecco is one of the most well known of all sparkling wine. Typically it contains less alcohol than champagne and is very aromatic, with notes of apples, jasmine and apricots. The name comes from the grapes used to make this sparkling wine. The only regions that produce Prosecco include Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia. This sparkling wine has become famous as the main ingredient of the Bellini cocktail. Asti is a sparkling white Italian wine that comes from the region of Asti in Piedmont, located in the north of Italy. Made from the Moscato Bianco grape, it is sweet and low in alcohol. Yet despite its sweetness, Asti has enough acidity to be versatile in food and wine pairings. Flavors include ripe citrus, lemon, green apple, and grapefruit.
Cava from SpainCava is Spain’s famous medium-bodied sparkling wine. It hails from the Penedes region of northeast Spain. It is perhaps the world’s best value in the sparkling wine category. Cava is made by using the same method that the French utilize in making Champagne. The major cava brands are familiar names and include Freixenet, Segura Viudas, Cristalino, among others. These wines are crafted using indigenous grape varieties you’ve likely never even heard of! It may be white (blanco) or rosé (rosado). The flavors of Spain’s Cavas can range from floral to dry apples and even earthy mushroom. Cava is a very versatile wine style, perfect for pairing with a wide variety of dishes, including ham, fried fish, sushi, tapas and even barbecue.
TIP #1: Handle with care!Don't let your sparkling wine get too warm or too cold and keep it in the shade and out of direct sunlight.
TIP #2: Thumbs Down!Remove the foil from the bottle and put your thumb over the cork. Turn the handle of the “cage” to the right, remove the cage and tilt the bottle to a 45° angle facing AWAY from everyone. Gently turn the bottle from the bottom, holding the cork firmly, until the cork pops.
TIP #3: Just Chill!Put the sparkling wine into the fridge about 20 minutes before you plan to serve it. You want it to chill out but not get too cold or you won't enjoy all of the delicate aromas and flavors.
TIP #4: Don't forget the flute!Use proper glasses; long-stemmed flutes or tulip-shaped glasses are the best for serving champagne. The long stemmed flute’s design enhances the flow of bubbles to the crown and concentrates the aromas of the drink. Clean your glasses only with water, don't use soap.
TIP #5: Cheers!No matter what the occasion, there is always a reason to toast when you have bubbly in your glass!
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