As sparkling wines have gained popularity in the US, the sparkling options available have increased too. Prices can vary widely when it comes to sparkling wine, and it’s challenging to know the difference between different types of sparkling wine, and whether those price differences are worth it to you or your customers.
Every thoughtful wine list should have at least two different sparkling options. Even though more people are picking sparkling for everyday drinking, they do still hold a unique status as a special occasion wine. Having one expensive option and one middle of the road option is recommended.
Need a little help deciphering those labels? Here’s a quick cheat sheet to help explain the differences between the basic types of sparkling wine you’ll find out there.
The most recognized name for sparkling wine, Champagne can only be labeled as such if it was created in the geographic area of Champagne in France. It refers to wine made with a secondary fermentation done in the bottle to create carbonation.The grapes primarily used in Champagne production are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier.
As for flavor, fine champagne often has flavors that many describe as bread dough, due to the aging of the wine on its spent yeast cells. The bubbles tend to be finer and more elegant and the wine tends to have a higher acidity.
Sparkling wine known as Prosecco comes from the Veneto region of Italy. Prosecco is made using Prosecco grapes (also known as Glera) and while Champagne gets its bubbles from a secondary fermentation in the bottle, Prosecco gets its bubbles using the tank method. These means they do the secondary fermentation in a large stainless steel vessel and then put the carbonated wine into bottles.
Due to use of the tank method, the bubbles in Prosecco are a bit frothy and spritzy, and not as long lasting. The grapes used generally have a sweeter profile and lend hints of tropical fruits, flowers and honey.
Cava is sparkling wine that has been made in Spain. Cava is made using three main grapes, primarily Macabeu (sometimes called Viura) and also Xarel-lo and Parellada. Blending these three grapes together produces a wine that has a high acidity, but with more balanced fruit flavors than Prosecco, but not as much of the bread dough and nuttiness of Champagne.
Cava is considered by many to be a great value since it gets its bubbles using the méthode champenoise, or Champagne method, meaning it undergoes its secondary fermentation in the bottle.
Here in the US, wine producers are making sparkling wine all over the country using both methods, producing sparkling wine for every budget and palate. Those labeled méthode champenoise use the Champagne method and often similar grapes as their French counterparts, meaning you can get very high quality sparkling wine, without the Champagne price tag.
Try lots of different types of sparkling wine, and see which pair well with your menu. Sparkling wines are extremely food friendly and perfect for a table ordering very different dishes. When planning out your wine list, have an affordable option for everyday drinking, a cheaper bottle for spritzy cocktails, and always have at least one option for special occasions.
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Writer Bio: Kristin Crane is a writer and designer living in Providence, Rhode Island. She works with small businesses to help them promote themselves in various industries including food, wine, and the arts. She also contributes as Travel Editor to The Lady Project blog.