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Sparkling Wine 101

To many people Sparkling wine is just champagne, but the term is so much broader than that. Sparkling wine is probably the most technical wine in the world. What makes the stuff so sophisticated is that it undergoes not just one fermentation but a second one to make bubbles. In the process of winemaking, producers have many tweaks that in the end will greatly alter the final tastes. Thus, in order to find your favorite type of bubbly, let’s explorer of world of sparkling wine based on their taste.

Zesty REDUCTIVE sparkling wines

Sparkling wine made with this style boasts flavors of flowers, fresh apple, tropical fruit, lime and lemon zest. Wines tend to be light and zippy in the palate. The technique is called reductive winemaking and the ideology behind this method is to preserve as much of the floral and fruit character of the wine as possible. This means less oxygen is introduced during the winemaking process–this is where the term reductive comes from.

Styles produced with this method:

Dry, Lean & Zesty

Dry and zesty wines are made with non-aromatic grapes like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They also typically come from the coolest climate wine regions.

To be dry, they have the least amount of sweetness added during dosage and are typically labeled as Brut. Here are some wines that fall into this category:

  • Most NV (non-vintage) Champagne
  • Most Cava
  • Most Brut and Extra Brut level sparkling wine
  • Most Brut Nature sparkling wines

Light, Dry, Fruity, & Floral

Light in taste, these wines have more floral and fruit notes typically from the grapes that have been blended into the wine. For example, the region of Franciacorta in Italy blends Pinot Grigio into their wine resulting in a fruitier flavor. You’ll also tend to find this style made in warmer climate growing regions, such as Sonoma, California. Here are some examples:

tommasi prosecco

  • Most Brut and Extra-Dry Prosecco (aka Valdobbiadene)
  • Most Franciacorta (“fran-cha-court-ah”)
  • Sparkling Rosé
  • Riesling Sekt (from Germany and Austria)
  • Most American, Argentine and South African sparkling wines
  • Extra-Dry sparkling wines

Sweet & Perfumed

Sweet sparkling wines are either sweetened during the dosage portion of winemaking or are made with aromatic grapes like Muscat (Moscato). If the wine is sweetened by the dosage, it will be labeled with one of the several terms for sweet:

  • Dry Prosecco (aka Valdobbiadene)
  • Demi-Sec and Doux sparkling wines
  • Amabile and Dolce Italian sparkling wines
  • Brachetto d’Acqui (a Rosé wine)
  • Asti Spumante (made with Moscato)

Creamy AUTOLYTIC and OXIDATIVE sparkling wines

Sparkling wines made with this style come out tasting rich and creamy with flavors of toast, brioche, yellow apple, honeycomb and sometimes hazelnut. This style is made with a technique often referred to as autolytic or oxidative winemaking. The ideology behind this particular method is to enhance the wine with the qualities of aging.

Styles produced with this method:

Rich, Creamy, & Nutty

Autolytic sparkling wines are a more expensive process in terms of time and resources, which is why they tend to cost more. Seek out wines with an “extended tirage” which means they’ve rested on their lees a long time. This helps add to the creaminess. Then, look into the wine’s production. Many of the nuttiest sparkling wines are fermented in oak barrels.

Reserva and Gran Reserva Cava

Vintage Champagne, American Bubbles, Italian “Metodo Classico,” Franciacorta and Cap Classique with 3+ years on the lees.

Source: Wine Folly

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