What's a Party Without the Bubbly! (Sparkling Wine 101)
Celebrations of all kinds include raised glasses, heartfelt toasts and clinking of glasses. These moments are even more special when that glass is filled with some bubbly libations. There is just something so elegant, so sophisticated when you walk into a party and are offered liquid gold in a beautiful, crystal flute. Or your empty glass is filled with sparkling bubbles just in time for the Father of the Bride's toast.
But what exactly are you being served in that crystal flute? Is it Champagne? Prosecco? Cava? Sparkling wine? Maybe Moscato d'Asti? Or even Franciacorta! Hosts have so many options when it comes to what to pour for their guests that it can be confusing.
As a Certified Specialist of Wine, I often see hosts requesting Champagne for their celebration. There is no question that Champagne is the most prestigious of sparkling wines. And if that is what you want to serve, then that is what you should buy (lucky guests!). But oftentimes, people don't necessarily want to serve Champagne at their event, really what they are asking for is just something bubbly! I am going to give you a brief lesson in Sparkling Wine 101 and some of the fabulous choices:
Only sparkling wine made in Champagne, France, using the Traditional Method, is allowed to be called Champagne. These wines undergo a second fermentation, in the bottle, which is called the Traditional Method. This is how the bubbles develop, during this second fermentation. Normally the finer the bubbles, the better quality Champagne. Champagne comes in Vintage and Nonvintage. A Nonvintage Champagne is usually the "house" style of the producer, made with a blend of vintages (the year the grapes were picked). Vintage is Champagne from a single year's harvest.
These are wines with bubbles made in a wine producing region, other then Champagne, France! So you can buy a beautiful, sparkling wine from France that is top notch but just can't be called Champagne because...it's not from Champagne, France! These wines can be less expensive then Champagne even though many go through second fermentation in the bottle as well. You can find wonderful Sparkling Wines from New Mexico to Germany!
Everyone loves Prosecco! Easy drinking and almost always affordably priced, Prosecco is Italy's version of sparkling wine. It comes from the Veneto region of Italy and made with the Glera grape. This exotic sounding grape must make up a minimum of 85% of Prosecco. Whereas Champagne and Sparkling Wine are made with familiar varietals such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Italy has their own indigenous grape that is used. The reason Prosecco tends to be more affordable is due to the second fermentation taking place in a large, pressurized tank. This is called the Tank Method (many of the affordable Sparkling Wines are produced this way as well).
If you haven't tried Cava, I highly recommend you do. Cava is a Traditional Method, high quality, sparkling wine from Spain at very reasonable price points here in the U.S. Cava is made primarily in the Catalonia Region of Spain, near Barcelona. Impress your friends at your next party by informing them that the Cava you are serving is made from the grapes Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada! One of my personal favorites to sip is a Cava Rose, delicioso!!
Moscato d' Asti
Back to Italy for some Moscato d' Asti. Asti is a fully sparkling wine made from the Moscato grape and Moscato d' Asti is a less bubbly, or fizzy, version of it. These wines tend to be sweet and have a lower alcohol level then other sparkling wines. The town of Asti in the Piedmont region is where Asti comes from (Old World wines are named after their town of origin). For my parents 50th wedding anniversary celebration, Moscato d' Asti was poured for a toast after dinner. It was perfect with the anniversary cake and a big hit with the guests.
If you've never tried one of these sparkling wines, do yourself a favor and do so. If you don't want to commit to buying a bottle, try a glass next time you see one of these wines on a restaurant wine list. Or attend a wine tasting at your local wine store.
One of the services I offer clients is to consult on their special occasion wines or even provide a guided wine tasting at their event. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions or comments. I look forward to hearing from you! Cheers!!!
Jaume Serra Cristalino, Brut Cava
Approximate Retail Price: $11.00
Gruet, Brut Sparkling Wine
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Approximate Retail Price: $17.00
Dom Perignon, 2006 Vintage
Approximate Retail Price: $185.00