Champagne is by far the most famous sparkling wine, but it’s only a small portion of the sparkling wine produced in the world. In order to be called Champagne, it must come from the Champagne region of France. Champagne is made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Munier grapes. Wines like Blanc de Blanc are 100% chardonnay, where Blanc de Noir are generally 100% Pinot Noir. Champagne is characterized by a yeasty, bready nose; and the smaller the bubbles, the higher the quality. Méthode Champenoise is the process that ALL Champagne must be made by. This process is extremely involved, and includes a secondary fermentation in the bottle. Put simply, wine is made, the wine is then blended to the taste that the wine maker wants, is placed in a bottle and sweet wine is added. Then, the wine maker will add more yeast to the bottle, and a secondary fermentation will take place inside the bottle. This is what gives Champagne its bubbles! The CO2 that is created by fermentation is now locked inside the bottle creating bubbles! Champagne will be around $35-75 per bottle with some being well into the hundreds of dollars.
Another sparkling wine that is very popular is Prosecco, from Italy, which has recently gone through a change in rules. Prosecco was not only a wine, but also the name of the grape. This was confusing to some people, so the Italian wine regulatory board decided to clear up any confusion by making it more confusing. The prosecco grape was renamed Glera, and now must be produced in the region Conegliano-Valdobbiadene in order to be known as prosecco. All wines outside this region, even though they may be made in the same style with the same grape, must be referred to as Vino Spumante rather than Prosecco. Prosecco is a lighter, more fruit forward sparkling wine than Champagne. Prosecco will generally cost about $12-$15 a bottle
Asti is another Italian sparkler and is made of 100% Muscat grapes. It’s sweet, fruity and a great starting point for people who want to be introduced to sparkling wine.
Traditional food pairings with Champagne are Oysters, and Caviar, but I find that sparkling wines are great to cut through the sweetness of desserts or buttery appetizer dishes.
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Jon Link, Sommelier
Learn more about how sparkling wines are made in The Bubbly World of Sparkling Wines
Need helping opening that bottle of bubbles? Check out How to Open Sparkling Wine