Cheers!: A Beginner’s Guide To Sparkling Wines
Sep 18, 2023
In the past, sparkling wines tended to be reserved for special occasions only. We talk of ‘popping the cork’ to mark celebrations such as birthdays, passed exams, and of course New Year’s Eve. It tends to have a certain mystique, and is regarded as exotic, exclusive and on the expensive side.
However, there is now an excellent selection of sparkling wines available in the UK, and there is a fizz for any time of the year, or indeed week! Here’s a quick guide to choosing a great bottle of bubbly.
What is a sparkling wine?
A sparkling wine is wine with trapped carbon dioxide which causes the characteristic bubbles. Depending on the method used to trap the carbon dioxide, the bubbles are fine, lively and long lasting, or larger and tend to fade away faster.
Champagne is made with a lengthier fermentation process that takes place in the bottle. Yeast sediment is added, which produces an abundance of fine bubbles. Prosecco and other sparkling wines are fermented in a tank for a shorter period of time, resulting in rather less effusive bubbles.
There are different types of sparkling wine, depending on how it is made as described above, and also the variety of grape used and the region it was produced in.
Champagne is regarded as the jewel in the crown of sparkling wine and is firmly established as a luxury product. It’s made with three different grape varieties; Pinot Noir, Chardonnany and Pinot Meunier. To carry the name Champagne, the wine must be produced in the Champagne region of France, where land is at a huge premium.
This is partly why Champagne is usually pricy. It also has a labour intensive production method and is aged for a longer time to allow the subtle and complex flavours to develop.
This French wine is growing in popularity in the UK as an excellent affordable alternative to Champagne, despite being produced in a similar way. It is smoother and less bubbly than Champagne, and can be made from a range of different grape varieties.
Cava has a rather unfashionable image, but this is slowly changing and it deserves a much better reputation. It’s made with traditional methods and can be a good-value alternative to Champagne.
Prosecco is a hugely popular sparkling wine with an accessible price point and a crisp refreshing taste. It tends to be a little lower in alcohol than regular wine, and makes a pleasant drink for more casual occasions where you may not be eating a lot to soak up the booze.
This is a relative newcomer to the table, but it is already becoming a staple for summer gatherings. It is made from red grapes and has a distinctly fruity flavour.