Sparkling Wine: The Ultimate Guide to Bubbly Wine

Pop the bubbly, we’re going to talk about bubbly! From mimosas to celebrating an event, sparkling wine makes all events more fun. Here is everything you should know about the delicious, celebratory drink. 

What is Sparkling Wine

Sparkling wine is a wine that is sparkling, duh! Sparkling wine is a wine that has bubbles and is carbonated. There are two methods to create delicious fizziness: “traditional method” or “ancestral method.”  

“Traditional method,” aka méthode traditionnelle, is, as the name implies, the more traditional and popular method of sparkling wine production. During the second fermentation, a concoction of sugar and yeast called ‘liqueur de tirage’ is added to still wine. Winemakers then bottle the wine, but instead of a cork, the wine is capped with a bottle cap, like a beer bottle. During this time, the yeast begins attacking the sugar, which results in carbon dioxide being trapped in the bottle.  

However, the yeast precipitates, also known as lees, must be removed after the wine has completed the second fermentation. The process to remove lees is called disgorging, and the process begins with riddling. Riddling is when the bottles are turned downwards and lightly shaken to move the lees to the bottle's neck. This process is done in very gradual steps. Eventually, the bottles are cooled, causing the lees to freeze into a small block of ice. When the bottle is opened, the precipitate is ejected from the bottle due to the pressure. The bottle is filled completely to compensate for the missing space.  

The best quality sparkling wines go through this process for several months to even a few years. When the process is complete, the cap is removed and replaced with a traditional cork and wire cage. 

One thing to note is that the secondary fermentation happens in the bottle for quality wines. A lesser quality wine will have this process occur in a large tank, which is indicated by the word “Charmant” on the bottle. 

“Ancestral Method” is also, as its name implies, the oldest method of making sparkling wine. This method differs from the traditional method in that these wines don’t go through the disgorging process. However, the wine is filtered. Typically, the wine bottles are emptied, cleaned, and refilled.  

What Types of Sparkling Wine Are There?

There are five main types of sparkling wine, and they mainly differ based on where they are made. Most of them tend to have a pretty high acidity, and obviously they all have bubbles. But beyond that, don’t worry; we’ll guide you through them! 

  • Champagne - Some less informed wine drinkers than you (because you’re reading this blog, duh) believe that any sparkling wine is champagne. But they are NOT correct. While Champagne IS arguably the most famous and popular sparkling wine, it comes from the Champagne region in France. Going to go ahead and bet that’s where it got its name….. There are a bunch of different versions, like wines from Blanc de Blancs and Blanc de Noirs. It's often made with Pinot Meunier grapes. Great for life’s celebrations, Champagne is known for its small bubbles that create a fruity taste that’s not always sweet. 
  • Prosecco - like Champagne, Prosecco got its name from the village it originated in: Prosecco. Unlike Champagne, Prosecco is from Italy instead of France. Italian Prosecco tends to be sweeter than other sparkling wines and is known for its larger bubbles. 
  • Cava - Straying away slightly from taking its name directly from the region it originated in, Cava comes from a town in Spain called Catalonia. Less sweet than Prossecco, Spanish Cava has floral aromas and a fresh, lemonade flavor. It is often made with Chardonnay grapes.
  • Sekt - Known for its low sweetness and alcohol levels, Sekt is made in many Germany regions. These wines often use Pinot Noir and Riesling grape varietals.
  • Rose - A fan favorite, Rose, is the popular pink drink in a bubbly form. Sparkling rose comes from a variety of places, from Italy to California. A brut rose has just a hint of sugar. 

Other honorable mentions include Spumante, Franciacorta, and Crémant, which includes multiple varieties like Crémant de Bourgogne and Crémant D'alsace.  Regions that frequently produce sparkling wines include Burgundy, Veneto, and Sonoma and Napa Valley. Yes, the United States can get in on this game too! 

While sparkling wines tend to be white wines, there is the occasional red wine that's a sparkler. Most commonly, this would be a Lambrusco. 

Brut What?

If you’ve ever stood in the wine aisle and stared at the many different wines, you know how overwhelming it can be. Every type of wine has more types of wine, and it starts to all get very confusing. Sparkling wine is no different! 

In addition to the many different styles, sparkling wine also has a system in place for sharing the bottle's dryness level. This is measured by the amount of residual sugar in grams per liter of wine. Confused? Don’t worry; we tackled this below!

(Dry to sweet levels)

  • Demi-Sec: Drink this one with dessert because it is sweet! With up to 50 grams per liter of residual sugar, you can taste a noticeable change in sweetness. Sometimes champagne is produced in this sweetness; however, it is not very common. If you’re feeling like giving it a try, might we suggest pairing it with some dark chocolate or strawberries? Or even better, chocolate-covered strawberries. A sparkling Moscato Asti wine from the Muscat grape might be labeled like this, or a wine from the Loire Valley.
  • Extra Dry: Dry but not super dry; there is some residual sugar still left. A good example of a common extra dry sparkling wine is the classic Italian sparkling wine, Prosecco. With 12-17 grams of sugar per liter, the hint of sweetness pairs deliciously with charcuterie. 
  • Brut: With less than 12 grams per liter of residual sugar, the hint of sugar in its brut nature is enough to keep you satisfied. This is the most popular form of sparkling wine, and its no surprise that champagne is most commonly this dryness variety. Pair a brut sparkling with a cheese plate for a delightfully good time! 
  • Extra Brut: The driest of them all with 0-6 grams of sugar per liter. Cava is the most popular type of wine that comes in this variation. This babe was made to be paired with the best foods, like sushi and french fries!  

3 Occasions Where Pulling Out The Sparkling Wine is a Must

If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands! If you're happy and you know it, and you want to show it, pull out a bottle of your finest sparkling wine! There isn't a wrong time to pull out a bottle of sparkling wine in our opinions. But here are a few occasions where cracking open a sparkling wine is absolutely necessary.  

  1. New Year's Eve: Sparkling wine and New Year's eve are basically synonymous with one another. Like, actually, don’t bother inviting us to your party if we’re not drinking sparkling wine when the ball drops! 
  2. Weddings: pass out wine when the couple says their “I Dos” as a way to commemorate the big moment!
  3. A Promotion: We’ll be passing out Bevs to everyone we see when our boss gives us that promotion we know we deserve.