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A Bubbly Renaissance: A Guide to Better Sparkling Wines on the Market

Published: June 13, 2024
Sparkling wines, whether referred to as Champagne, Prosecco, Franciacorta, Cava, Lambrusco, Brachetto, Espumante, Mousseux, Sekt, Crémant, or by any other name, have enchanted drinkers around the world. (Image: Manos Angelakis/LuxuryWeb Magazine)

Published with permission from LuxuryWeb Magazine

It’s the beginning of what is supposed to be a very hot summer, so we thought that a cold glass of bubbly would be a great antidote to counter the summer heat.

Sparkling wines, whether referred to as Champagne, Prosecco, Franciacorta, Cava, Lambrusco, Brachetto, Espumante, Mousseux, Sekt, Crémant, or by any other name, have enchanted drinkers around the world. In Italy, two additional terms appear on labels: Spumante, indicating an extra fizzy wine, and Frizzante, a gentler sparkler.

While French Champagne is renowned for its extremely dry and fizzy style, Italian Prosecco has gained fame for a softer, less dry bubbly. Cava represents Spain’s take on sparkling wine, available in styles ranging from extra dry to dulce (sweet) but typically with significant alcohol content.

Sekt, the German and Austrian name for sparkling wine, is known for being elegantly dry and low in alcohol. Crémant refers to French sparkling wines produced outside the Champagne region; the term “Champagne” is legally protected for use only within that region.

Production methods

Sparkling wine production involves two primary methods: the classic méthode Champenoise and the Martinotti or Charmat method. The méthode Champenoise involves secondary fermentation in the bottle, creating bubbles directly within the bottle that will be sold.

Champagne, Crémant, Franciacorta, and Cava are made using this method. The Charmat method, used for Prosecco, Lambrusco, Sekt, Asti, and most Brazilian and Greek sparklers, involves secondary fermentation in large stainless steel tanks before bottling.

(Image: Manos Angelakis/LuxuryWeb Magazine)

The traditional method is more complex and influences the price due to its labor-intensive and space-consuming process. It starts with making a basic still wine, followed by blending various still wines with sugar, nutrients, and yeast to achieve the “house style.” The final stage is in-bottle fermentation, essential for creating a vintage sparkler, which requires all wines to be from the same year.

Aging and storage

Classic method sparkling wines benefit from aging, unlike Charmat-produced wines, which can be enjoyed younger. I recommend aging a classic method sparkler for at least five years but consuming it before it reaches fifteen years. Proper storage in a dark, cool place with the bottle on its side is crucial to maintain the quality.

(Image: Manos Angelakis/LuxuryWeb Magazine)

Historical roots

The first sparkling wine is believed to have been produced in 1531 by the monks of the Saint-Hilaire abbey in the Limoux region, predating Dom Pérignon’s Champagne by approximately 135 years. The quote attributed to Dom Pérignon, “Come quickly, I am tasting stars,” is thought to be a 19th-century advertising invention.

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Best sparkling wines

  1. Armand de Brignac Brut: This Champagne arrived in a stunning black lacquer box with a pewter Ace of Spades logo. It is a blend of 40 percent Chardonnay, 40 percent Pinot Noir, and 20 percent Pinot Meunier, with aromas of brioche, pear, honeysuckle, and white flowers, offering a smooth, long finish.

  2. Albert Bichot Brut Reserve Crémant de Bourgogne: This sparkling wine is a blend of 60 percent Chardonnay and 40 percent Pinot Noir, with notes of lime, pink grapefruit, and white blossoms, and a clean, long palate.

  3. Gérard Bertrand Ballerine: Featuring great balance and a hint of yeast, fresh almonds, and flowers, this wine is a standout from Southeastern France’s Languedoc region.

  4. Saint-Reine Brut: A Blanc de Blancs made from Chardonnay, it is straightforward and offers flavors of green apple, pears, honeydew melon, and orange zest.

  5. Vilarnau Rosé Cava: From Catalunya, this Cava is made from Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel·lo grapes, offering a softer, less acidic alternative to Champagne.

  6. Mionetto Superiore Brut Prosecco: This Prosecco from the Veneto region is fruity and fresh with aromas of green grapes, honeydew, and golden pears.

  7. Ferrari Rosé: A Brut from Trentodoc, this wine is distinct with fragrances of white flowers, red currants, and strawberries.

  8. FIOL Prosecco Rosé: An extra dry vintage Prosecco from Treviso, it offers fruity aromas of berries with hints of citrus and white flowers.

  9. Aphrodise Rosé: A new Greek sparkler made in the Charmat method with Xinomavro grapes, offering aromas of apple, ripe strawberries, and cherry.

I raise my glass to your health!

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