Select a sparkling wine that will add thirst-quenching fizz to any glass.by Jérôme Chambon
The quality of a sparkling wine depends mainly on the method employed during production.
Carbonation is when CO2 is injected into the wine, and this is the cheapest method to produce sparkling wine and as a result it won’t make a high quality product.
Tank method, also called cuve close or the Charmat method, is the most widely used bubble-making technique in the world. The base wine is put into a tank with yeast and sugar, so that a second fermentation takes place, producing carbon dioxide gas. It is then filtered and placed into bottles under pressure. This method is less costly than a second fermentation in the bottle but it does not allow the wine to be in contact with lees (dead yeast) long enough to give the wine the fine aromas found in sparkling wine made by a more traditional process. An impressive 90 per cent of Sekt and most Prosecco are produced using the tank modus. Asti is made using an alternative tank technique and must be stored at very low temperatures.
The traditional method means the second fermentation takes place in the bottle. Cava in Spain, and Champagne and Crémant in France exclusively use this method. It gives the best results in terms of quality but it is also the most expensive way of producing sparkling wine.
The transfer technique is mainly used in the New World, more specifically in Australia, and is a mix of tank and traditional methods. The bottles are disgorged in a tank under pressure, filtered together and then rebottled.
Champagne is the most prestigious sparkling wine on the market. It comes exclusively from the Champagne region in France, where its production is governed by very strict rules. Seven grape varieties are authorized to produce Champagne but nowadays only three are widely used, namely: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Chardonnay is a white grape, which gives lightness, acidity and citrusy fruit characteristics, while Pinot Noir provides full body and red berry character, and Pinot Meunier offers an all-round fruitiness.
Most Champagnes are made with a blend of these three grape varieties with some exceptions: When only Chardonnay is used, the Champagne is called “Blanc de Blancs” as this is the only white grape among the three. If only Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are used, the Champagne is called “Noir de Blancs” as these varieties use only black grapes. Interestingly, making white wine with black grapes is possible, but not the other way around. The color of a wine comes from the elements found in the grape’s skin, while the juice of the pulp is usually colorless.