Sparkling wine “sparkle” because when wine yeasts convert sugar to alcohol, they give off carbon dioxide as a bi-product. Trapping this carbon dioxide is what creates bubbles. But all bubbles are not created equal. There are two major ways of creating the bubbles: In the bottle and in a tank. The price of a sparkling wine is usually a function of the way these bubbles are created.
In the Bottle — Traditional Method
The traditional way of creating carbonation, and the method that Champagne invented, is to let the wine ferment in the bottle. A finished wine is bottled, and then small amounts of additional sugar and yeast are added to the bottle before it is corked and laid on its side. For 6 to 8weeks, a second fermentation takes place and the carbon dioxide dissolves into the wine. The wine can then rest anywhere from 6 months to many years depending on what sort of flavours the winemaker is after. The longer a wine ages in the bottle, the more contact it has with the yeast, which creates bready, brioche or toasty notes. The bubbles also become more integrated and finer the longer a wine sits”on the lees”.
Once a wine finishes aging on its lees, the final task is to extract the yeastfrom the bottle. A complicated process is then undertaken to slowlyturn the bottle to an upside–down position before freezing the neck and extracting the sediment. Voila! a bottle of sparkling wine is born.
This whole process is complicated, time consuming and capital intensive, and is why Champagne costs what it does. But other countries, such as Italy(in Franciacorta) and Spain (in Penedes) have created a reputation for producing traditional method sparkling wine. They typically do not have the same aging requirements and toasty or biscuity flavours, but theyare well worth a look.
Pierre Gobillard Champagne Brut Authentique
$59.50 btl / $357.00 cs (case of 6 x 750ml)
PierreGobillard is not one of the grande marque houses in Champagne. They area small, family-owned recoltant manipulant (a grower who makes and markets Champagne under their ownlabel, from grapes exclusively sourced from their own vineyards.) The Gobillard family’s estate is in Hautvilliers, the cradle of Champagne and birthplace of renowned Benedictine Monk Dom Perignon. The Gobillards have been producing outstanding Champagne from their vineyards for three generations and the quality and their reputation is the result of hard work, a passion for innovation and know-how passed down the family over the years. This Brut Authentique is a beautiful, full-bodied Champagne which celebrates the classic trio of Champagne grapes – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier – by including them all in equal proportions. The result is a sensational golden wine with delicious aromas of dry fruit and honey which works well both with foodand on its own. If you are looking for a delicious Champagne, skip themore famous brands, where $20 in every bottle is spent to market toyou!
Majolini Franciacorta Brut
$37.00 btl / $444.00 cs (case of 12 x 750ml)
Franciacortais not usually on people’s radar since only about 20 producers export Franciacorta In recent years it has gained recognition amongst top wine critics and is often described as Italy’s answer to Champagne. The main difference is that it ages on thelees longer than Champagne, making it even more complexand offering outstanding value. Majolini is a small yet prestigious producer in the region. Their non-vintage version is 90% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir. There is a lightly earthy, slightly bruised apple note that is lovely. In the mouth it is quite full with palate-filling freshness, and again that touch of the bruised apple and pear. Nice hints of sweetness here, in a wine that is long and quite complex.
Food Pairing: It is an excellent aperitif and fine accompaniment to oysters, cold seafood platters, creamy cheeses such as brie and delicate first courses
Codorniu Anna de Codorniu Brut Reserva
$19.05 btl / $228.60 cs (case of 12 x 750ml)
Produced using the traditional method, and aged for 15 months on lees, this aReserva Cava. A well-made Cava is the ultimate bang for your buck in the sparkling wine category. This was the first Cavato incorporate Chardonnay (it is 70% Charnnonay and 15% Macabeo, 15% Parellada – indigenous Spanish varieties suited to grow in hotter and drier conditions). Brilliant yellow colour with green reflections. Fine, persistent bubbles forming continuous beads. On the nose, it displays citrusy and tropical fruit notes along with more complex aging aromas (toast & brioche) that enrich the range of aromas. On the palate, it is creamy, wide and long-lasting.
Food Pairing: The freshness and delicacy of the Brut makes it an ideal aperitif. It also goes well with shellfish and white fish. Suitable for sushi, sashimi or lightly spiced carpaccio. Spanish cheeses such as a young Manchego. Cream based mains.
In the Tank — Metodo Italiano
In the late 19th Century, an Italian named Frederico Martinotti patented atechnique for making sparkling wine in a pressurized tank, rather than in a bottle. The main reason for this is that he wanted to preserve the fruitiness of the grape, and letting it sit on lees during a second fermentation was only going to take away from the freshness. Today Italians produce many of their sparkling wines this way, particularly if fruitiness rather than yeastiness is their main goal. Asti Spumanti, Prosecco, Moscato d’Asti are all made in the tank using the Metodo Italiano.
Conca d’Oro Prosecco Conegliano DOCG Extra Dry
$22.40 btl / $268.80 cs (case of 12 x 750ml)
The demand for Prosecco has risen year over year and will soon become the most popular sparkling wine in the world due to its approachability andgreat value. This DOCG from Conegliano-Valdobbiadene is a premium Prosecco made with some of the best Glera grapes in the region. This extra dry sparkling wines have a bit more residual compared to brut wines, but sugar is not a bad thing when it comes to sparkling wine. It helps balance out the searing acidity as well as adds complexity to theend product. Intense aroma of fresh and fruity green apple, banana,with note of acacia flower come through.
Food Pairing: Excellent as an aperitif, cheese, charcuterie or with fried calamari or shrimp
$14.90 btl / $178.80 cs (case of 12 x 750ml)
Great for making spritzes and cocktails or drink cold as an aperitif. The Nua Brut is from one of Italy’s top Prosecco producers. This wine showsvibrant red apples, ripe citrus, honey and hazelnuts with a hint of toasty brioche. The bubbles are courser than a traditional method sparkling wine, but are still persistent and mouth filling. A great bubbly at a fantastic price.
Food Pairing: Light appetizers, fish dishes, hard cheeses and charcuterie
There are many different types of sparkling wines at many different prices. Knowing which way a wine is produced gives you many different options when ordering wines for the holiday season.
To your next great glass, and you and yours this holiday season