Originally published in South Shore Senior News, December 5, 2018
2019 is upon us, and ringing in the new year by toasting to family, friends, and new possibilities with bubbly is a tradition many of us partake in. Sparkling wines are my absolute favorite style, not just for special occasions, but even for any random weekday lunch with friends. Why save the celebration for holidays when we can celebrate each day? Where does one begin, and what is the difference between the world’s sparkling wines?
The word Champagne has become synonymous with sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine should and can be accurately called Champagne. Champagne is not a wine, and it is not a grape. It is a region of France known for some of the world’s best sparkling wines. In order to be called Champagne, a wine must come from the Champagne region. Champagne is made from any combination of three grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. The Méthode Champenoise (also known as the Traditional Method) is the winemaking method followed in Champagne, which includes a second fermentation in the very bottle in which it will be sold. This can be very time consuming and laborious, which is often partly responsible for the hefty price tag on many Champagnes. Champagnes are aged in such a way that the resulting wines give a creamy, bready, brioche flavor in the glass. Champagne is not where the world of bubbly ends, however. In fact, you can find a plethora of other sparkling wines from other regions of France, which are labeled as Crémant.
Prosecco is Italy’s famous bubbly. Prosecco is produced in northeastern Italy, specifically the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia wine regions, that uses mainly the Glera grape to produce Champagne’s Italian cousin. A totally different winemaking style than used in Champagne, Prosecco tends to be fresher tasting with more fruit, less brioche. Proseccos can come in a variety of sweetness/dryness levels to please every palate. Prosecco’s price tag is equally as appealing, as you can easily find delicious Proseccos for under $15 a bottle.
Cava is the well known Spanish sparkling wine that can be made from a combination of grapes, most commonly Xarel.lo, Macabeo, Paralleda, and Chardonnay. Cava can be found in a wide range of sweetness levels, although Brut is most common in the mass market. It can also be found in a variety of quality levels, although compared to their counterparts from Champagne, are incredibly affordable. Cava provides the drinker with a balance of fresh fruit and subtle brioche.
Excellent sparkling wines are made all over the world from all kinds of grapes, resulting in a variety of styles (white, red, and rose), in every sweetness level, and available in every price range imaginable. The fun is in celebrating special occasions with something new. Perhaps this year leave the $10 bottle of Korbel on the rack and grab something new and exciting that will leave a lasting memory.
Cheers to 2019!