Some of my favorite wines fall into the bubbly category. Each can be as different as the country they come from, or the varietals they are made with. Most think that all sparkling wines are Champagne. That is true only if it comes from the Champagne appellation of France. All Champagne is sparkling wine, however. There are different methods that create the bubbles too.
When grapes are fermented into wine, the yeast converts the sugar to alcohol. During this process, carbon dioxide gas is released. When making ‘still’ wine this gas is allowed to dissipate out. When making sparkling wine, the carbon dioxide is trapped and becomes effervescent. This is called secondary fermentation. The Champagne method, or method traditionnelle, is when this second fermentation is induced in the same bottle that the ‘still’ blended wine is bottled in. The cuvée close method (charmat or bulk process) is when the second fermentation occurs in a large pressurized closed tank, then is bottled. This process preserves the fruit flavors. Then there is the inexpensive method that simply carbonates a ‘still’ wine like soda.
Just as there are various ways to create the bubbles, there are many more variables to create the flavors. The varietals will vary by country. Champagne is from France, and the native varietals used are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier. Other sparkling wines from France, but not the Champagne appellation are labeled Cremant. Cava is from Spain, and the native varietals are Xarel-lo, Viura and Parellada. Italy has several sparkling wines mainly from the north. Spumante which means sparkling, Asti Spumante is the sweet Muscat grape. Prosecco (my favorite) is a very celebrated sparkler from the Veneto, Friuli, and Trento-Alto regions, made with the Glera grape varietal and is drier, with pear and apple notes.
Sparkling wine has more roles that just to sip for a toast! To pair or not to pair is the question. The beautiful mix of effervescence, acidity, light weight, no oak and lower alcohol can be the perfect accompaniment for many foods. The bubbles can balance moderately spicy foods, salt, creamy dishes and work well with buttery pastries. Bubbly works well with foods that are hard to match with other wines, such as soups, pesto, hummus and egg dishes. The many sparkling wine styles make the pairings virtually endless! From Brut (no sweetness) to Doux (very sweet), your personal taste preference can have the perfect match with food. So go ahead, pair some bubbly with your celebration!
Bonnie Yapello, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits Wine Consultant – Cape Coral