Sparkling Wine

1 comment May 1, 2023by Andrew Lowry

by Andrew Lowry

Alright wine people, in honor of the Met Gala tonight, it's time to get smart on sparkling wine! As we know, all of Manhattan's elite and more are sipping on this fine fizzy wine tonight. So what is so special about sparkling wine? Why can't you call just any sparkling wine Champagne? Let's understand this often confused category of wine so that you will know EXACTLY what you are talking about at your next special occasion, celebration, or dinner party. Or maybe for next year's Met Gala? Our invite got lost in the mail this year, too. 

So first things first:

We cannot call all wine with nice little fizzy bubbles, Champagne! 

Champagne is actually a region in the northeast of France, sort of in the countryside northeast of Paris. Epernay, Reims, and Troyes are Champagne's main cities. And Champagne produces probably the finest sparkling wine in the world.

What's more, Champagne is also an AOC, or an "Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée," in France. The INAO (the Institut national de l'origine et de la qualité) is a governing body that controls all agricultural products within France, and they use the AOC system to delineate one wine-growing region from the next and to set forth regulations for how the wine in an AOC must be made. (We will be going over each AOC and their respective regulations in future blog posts.) One of the rules of Champagne is that Champagne can only be made from three grapes: chardonnay, pinot noir, and/or pinot meunier. 

So, to sum it up, ONLY sparkling wine that comes from the CHAMPAGNE wine-growing region in France can be called CHAMPAGNE. Any other sparkling wine that is made from any other place in the world MUST NOT BE CALLED CHAMPAGNE. It is like calling an iPhone an Android. Sure, both are smartphones, but they aren't made by the same company, or assembled in the same factory. 

So let's talk about the different types of sparkling wine in the world...

Here's the list: 

 

  1. Champagne (France)
  2. Cava (Spain)
  3. Crémant (essentially means "fizzy" or "bubbly," and any AOC in France other than Champagne can and will use this term to market their sparkling wine) 
  4. Prosecco (northeast Italy)
  5. Moscato d'Asti (northwest Italy)
  6. Lambrusco (northcentral Italy)
  7. Franciacorta (northcentral Italy)
  8. Sekt (Germany)
  9. Brachetto d'Acqui (northwest Italy)
  10. Trento DOC (northeast Italy)
  11. Cap Classique (South Africa)
  12. Pétillant Naturel (anywhere, this means naturally sparkling and happens when the wine is made in the méthode ancestrale -- we'll get into this in a later post)
  13. American sparkling wine
  14. English sparkling wine (South East England)
  15. Vinho espumante (Portugal)
  16. Pezsgő (Hungary)

 

There are probably more sparkling wines out there, and you'd be lucky to try them all, but the point of this blog is to show that there are many types of sparkling wine and that it is best not to call them all Champagne. You can if you want to, but if you continue drinking wine, and maybe (hopefully) enjoy wine enough to have fun educated conversations with other wine lovers, then it'd be very confusing if you called Cava, Champagne, and Champagne, Cava. 

A final note on sparkling wines: not all sparkling wines are sugary! A lot of people complain about the headaches they get after enjoying bottomless mimosas or enjoying a bottle of Champagne and often blame it on the sugar. Most sparkling wine that you are drinking probably has only 8-15 grams of sugar in the ENTIRE bottle. Even if you are a heavy weight and frequently take down two bottles of sparkling wine by yourself, you are consuming less sugar than what is in a can of Coke. So that headache of yours likely isn't due to the sugar, but more likely due to a lack of hydration while drinking, or the liquid you mixed with the sparkling wine to create some form of a mimosa.

Some sparkling wine is very sugary, though, and can have over 50g of sugar per bottle! Don't knock it 'till you try it...some of these are sooooo incredible. Here are the different sugar levels of sparkling wine:

  • Brut nature: 0-3 grams per liter, and no sugar added
  • Extra brut: 0-6 g/l
  • Brut: 0-12 g/l
  • Extra dry: 12-17 g/l
  • Sec / Dry: 17-32 g/l
  • Demi-sec: 32-50 g/l
  • Doux:> 50 g/l
The bottle of sparkling wine you are interested in will likely have one of these listed on the label to guide your final decision (and if it doesn't, ask your local wine shop, or DM us on our website or Instagram). And don't always assume that a wine with 32 grams of sugar will taste overly sweet. The cool thing about good sparkling wine is that the sugar can provide a perfect counterbalance to the acidity in the wine to create a perfectly balanced end product. These wines are what wine nerds call "ethereal." 

So there you go. All the major sparkling wine types and the countries that make them. 

We will get into each of these fun fizzies in future blog posts when we go through each major wine-making region. Stay tuned!

Cheers!

Madi and Andy 


1 comment


  • Matt Kurtz May 1, 2023 at 6:15 pm

    Thanks Madi and Andy! Great article and very informative. Looking forward to the next blog!


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