‘Thee’ De Facto Primer Part 2 Sparkling / Champagne Know-How & Terms


So, glass of sparkly in hand, you’d now like to identify what you’re tasting sans’ formality. This little number from our friends at Comité Champagne illustrates bubbly’s flavor developments over three stages of bottle-aging: Click top segments to advance timeline. (Relevant to non-French fizz using similar grapes, too.)

Speaking of non-French fizzwhy the fuss over the French stuff? In a nutshell – aging makes all the difference and France requires the longest. It happens in two phases: with yeast and without. This side-x-side comparison highlights why the French have earned some of that Champers snobbery:

Trumpet Champagne Flutes and Glass Ice Bucket Set
Trumpet Champagne Flutes and Glass Ice Bucket Set

French Champagne VS California Sparkling Wine NON-VINTAGE Production Norms

Cuvée Blend:

avg # of wines

30-60 wines 20 wines
# of Vintages used in NV 4-6 1-2
Aging ON lees (yeast)
minimum (vs Avg.)
NV, 12 mos (but usu 2 yrs)

[V,  3 yrs., but usu 4-10]

(None; all Optional)
Total Aging/pre-sale NV, 15 mos (but Avg  2- 3 yrs)

[V, 3 yrs. but Avg 7-10]

Average = 8 mos & up

While most know only grapes from Champagne are allowed in champagne, few know those grapes are limited to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier, period.

Schramsberg Vineyards Sparkling Wine

TÊTE DE CUVÉES: the crème de la crème:

The ‘best’ French houses produce ‘a’ prestigious Vintage bubbly each year. Only the best grapes need apply. These bottles are so exclusive, if a year’s fruit isn’t up-to-snuff, they won’t produce ‘It’ at all. Naturally, grab your diamond-encrusted clutches or money-clips to spring for one of these lovelies…

Prestige labels of major French Marques (Houses)

Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Columbus
Bollinger Année Rare R.D.
Charles Heidsieck La Royale
GH Mumm Grand Cordon Rouge
Gosset Cuvée Grand Millesième
Krug Grande Cuvée, Clos de Mesnil, Bland de Blanc
Moët & Chandon Dom Perignon
Piper Hiedseick Cuvée Florens-Louis
Pol Roger Cuvée Winston Churchill
Taittinger Comte de Champagne
Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame

Outside Champagne-proper, full-sparkling wines made in Champagne’s exact same method in strictly-controlled French regions (AOCs) but not in Champagne itself, are Crémants. (They may add a local grape or two…)

Any French bubbly outside an AOC (really, anywhere else) is ‘Mousseux’ (literally, “sparkling wine”) and produced using any method, but rarely “carbonation”.

*[Fancy yourself a “detail junkie”? Boy – here’s a site for you!]*

Champagne Sparkling Wine Primer

Sparkling wines are made everywhere else on the globe, using native grapes and any of the production methods covered in Part One: bottle-fermented, tank-fermented, transfer method, or carbonation. Rules are strict, but not as ‘stuffy’.

Semi-sparklings are a Charmat (tank method) example of style manipulation: intentionally reducing bubbles so fizz isn’t as pronounced. Unfortunately, places like Germany may label a wine ‘semi-sparkling’ even though it technically qualifies as ‘full-sparkling’—to avoid paying an arbitrary luxury tax associated with producing the latter. These softer-bubbled wines are also labeled: frizzante (Italy), pétillant (France), spritzig (Germany) and vino de aguja (Spain).

Below: the culmination of years of tearsheets, index cards, tasting notes and countless scraps of paper, compiled for your cross-referencing pleasure by COUNTRY, STYLE, and sometimes, GRAPES.

*Note to husband: “Scrap-paper Tower of Terroir” came in handy after all… vindication for commandeering desk for 10 years!*

Stylish Black Champagne Coupes

AUTHOR DISCLAIMER: While fairly comprehensive, it is still not complete.

BUBBLES AROUND THE GLOBE | Table © LStevens 2016
FRANCE Champagne Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier
FRANCE Crémant

…d’Alsace, de Bordeaux,  de Bourgogne, de Die, du Jura, de Limoux, de Loire, de Savoie, de Saumur, de Vouvray, de Luxembourg

Alsace: Pinots Blanc/ Gris/ Noir,  Riesling, Auxerrois Chardonnay

Burgundy: Chardonnay, Pinots Noir/ Blanc/ Gris, Aligoté, Melon de Bourgogne, Sacy. Gamay

Loire: Chard, Cab Franc, Pinot Noir & Chenin Blanc, NO Sauv Blanc!

Clairette de die: Muscat Blanc, Clairette Blanche

Limoux: Mauzac, Chenin Blanc, Chard, some Pinot Noir

Also, Pinot Blanc

Jura: Gamay, Poulsard, Saviginin, Poulsard

FRANCE Mousseux: Anjou, Bourgogne, Seyssael (Savoie), Saumur, Touraine,

(*Start in tank but end in bottle: Blanquette de Limoux ‘méthode ancestral’ & Clairette de Die)

Loire/ Saumur:  Chenin Blanc, Chard, Sauv Blanc, Pinot Noir, Cabs Franc & Sauv.

Limoux: Mauzac, Chenin Blanc, Chard, some Pinot Noir

FRANCE Other Sparkling (all AOC)

… Gaillac, Saint-Péray, Vouvray, Montlouis
Bergerac’s Blanc de Noirs

(Large variety of unique local varietals based on terroir)
FRANCE Semi-sparkling (Large variety, unique local varietals based on terroir such as Vouvray’s ‘Petillant Brut’ and Alain Renardat-Fache’s Rosé)
USA Champagne (pre-2006) &

Méthode traditionelle

Numerous from CA, OR, WA

Also NY Finger Lakes

USA Sparkling wine/Charmat Numerous from CA, OR, WA

Also NY Finger Lakes, MI, NM, RI

ITALY Méthode traditionelle

Franciacorta from Lombardy;

Trento DOC (esp. ‘Cavit’)

Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco & Gris, Pinot Nero, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir
ITALY Charmat

Spumante‘ = fully sparkling

Asti Spumante from Piedmont

Prosecco & Mionetto Sergio Rosé from Veneto

One-offs: Barbaresco from Bruno Giacosa; Alto Adige;

Sicily: Tasca d’Almerita & Murgo


Prosecco,  Kerner

Lagrein & Raboso (Sergio Rosé)


Alto Adige (19 varietals allowed)

ITALY Frizzante’ = lightly sparkling

Moscato d’Asti  & Brachetto d’Acqui from Piedmont

Prosecco from Veneto

Lambrusco from Emilia

Vernaccia di Serrapetrona from the Marches

Also labels with ‘v.f.q.p.r.d.

Moscato & Brachetto




SPAIN Méthode traditionelle


Macabeo (a.k.a. Viura), Xarel-lo, Parellada, Chard, Pinot Noir, Subirat. ‘Reds’ also: Monastrell, Garnacha, Pinot Noir
SPAIN Frizzante

Chacoli/Txakoli from Basque

Vino de Aguja: “Pearl” (i.e.Reynal & La Nansa)

Hondarribi Zuria (“white Hondarribia”) Bordeleza Zuria (Folle Blanche), Izkiriota Ttipia (Petit Manseng), Izkiriota (Gros Manseng) Courbu.
SPAIN espumosos:

el Xamprada from Bierzo

el Rueda espumoso from Valladolid

el Cueva Villanueva from Alcardete (Toledo)

el Rías Baixas espumoso from Pontevedra (Galicia)

Rías Baixas espumosos: albariño
AUSTRALIA Méthode traditionelle

Yarra,Victoria; Tasmania

*Famous Seppelt’s in Grampians/ Great Western is now being closed by Treasury Wine Estates, (a major corp.) A sad time indeed.

Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier

Pyrenees Victoria; South Australia, Tasmania

Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Riesling, Shiraz
GERMANY Méthode traditionelle (5%) VS Charmat (95%):

Sekt in order of classification:

1) Premium- only 13 regions: Qb.A. or Winzersekt

2) Deutscher Sekt (German-only grapes allowed)

Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris Pinot Noir, Spatburgunder (German Pinot Noir), Scheurebe
GERMANY Other Sekt-style:

3) Perlwein

4) Schaumwein (Carbonated)

5) “Spritzig” (Semi-sparkling)

3) Grapes may be from France, Italy or Spain
AUSTRIA Méthode traditionelle

Sekt from Vienna/ Weinviertel

Hauersekt is cheaper version

Same as Germany …add Welschriesling, Blaufränkisch and Grüner Veltliner

Sparkling Rosé

Same as above …add Schloss Gobelsburg, Chardonnay + Pinots (Noir, Gris, Blanc), Zweigelt
HUNGARY ‘pezsgő’ Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Muscat Ottonel, Muscat Lunel, Olaszrizling, Kékfrankos, Furmint, Királyleányka, Hárslevelű, Kéknyelű & Juhfark
SOUTH AFRICA Méthode traditionelle BUT here only it is called “Cap Classique”

Breede River Valley region

Stellenbosch region

Cape Agulhas region

Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc
SOUTH AFRICA Charmat …Add Pinotage
PORTUGAL Méthode traditionelle

VEQPRD stamp

Espumante from DOC Bairrada or Távora-Varosa

PORTUGAL Traditionelle, Charmat or Transfer

VFQPRD stamp from only these regions: Douro, Ribatejo, Minho, Alentejo or Estremadura

…Then VQPRD  for Traditionelle/ Charmat/or Transfer methods from anywhere else

PORTUGAL Anything ‘Carbonation-method’

Called “Espumosos”








RUSSIA (Semi-sweet Chardonnay, Aligote, other)
ENGLAND (Pinot Noir + Chard)
Champagne grapes
Photo Courtesy of ROEDERER ESTATE

Table a bit much…?

I also enjoyed this  12 WINES WITH SPARKLE post. (Ignore the “Christmas” reference: her suggestions are relevant year-round and present a nice mix of twelve styles to sample.)

General fan o’ the fizz?

Please slap some more Sparkling Knowledge on us in the COMMENTS — everyone wins!

A votre santé | Zum wohl | Na zdraví Sláinte | Gan bei | Kampai | Cherio | Topa |

Txin txin | Gezondheid | Salute | and… Oogy wawa, Friends!

Click Here for Part 1 of ‘Thee’ De Facto Bubbly Primer

Lori Stevens, former wine magazine food editor has worked for wineries and traveled extensively through most of the world’s wine, craft beer, cider, and scotch-producing regions. Author of Wine: A No Snob Guide: Drink Outside the Box, Berkeley: Rockridge Press, 2015; she currently lives in Seattle.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.