Sparkling wine is one of the few areas of the worldwide wine market that has experienced consistent growth. It’s an indulgent, celebratory drink – who doesn’t like a glass of fizz to liven up an event or special celebration?
Produced in the Champagne region of northeastern France using the méthode champenoise, these sparkling wines are the only ones permitted to be called “Champagne”. There is a long and distinguished history of wine making here – it comes with tradition, acclaim and title.
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are the grapes used to make Champagne, with results ranging in sweetness from demi-sec to extra brut. The question is: does it have to be Champagne? As bubbly goes, it’s certainly the most prestigious (and expensive!) but there are wine regions all over the world that produce sparkling wines that could be just as enjoyable.
If you’re keen to broaden your knowledge of wines in general, and sparkling wines in particular, a Vineyard Tour and Tasting or a Wine Tasting Experience is the way to go. Offered by companies such as Into The Blue, you’ll get a fascinating insight into the wonderful world of wines, with hands-on experience and, of course, a chance to sample a delicious drop or three. Look for sparkling wine producers in your area for a chance to see this unique winemaking method in action.
In the meantime, let’s take a closer look at some of the alternatives.
As a great option to Champagne that doesn’t bust the budget, and especially if you’re after a French sparkling wine that is made using the méthode champenoise, but perhaps with different grapes from a different region, choose Crémant. There are 8 regions of it in France, of which Crémant de Loire and Crémant de Bourgogne are the most popular wines.
Crémant follows the appellation rules which permits the use of local grape varieties, with lower minimum aging thresholds. This produces lighter, earlier drinking wines compared to Champagne that are definitely worth a try.
A light dry sparkling wine from the Italian regions of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Prosecco has taken the world by storm in recent years. It’s a budget friendly alternative to Champagne but with a similarly fresh taste. The affordability of Prosecco comes in part from the fact that is isn’t fermented in the bottle.
Italy also has some sweeter sparkling wines – Asti Spumante and Moscato d’Asti which both rely on the grape Moscato Bianco and are produced in the Piedmont region. Moscato d’Asti is a very sweet wine that’s relatively low in alcohol and well suited as a dessert wine. Asti Spumante is a little higher in alcohol and slightly fizzier.
Chiefly produced from the Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo grapes in Catalonia, Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine that makes an excellent alternative to Champagne. Like its French cousin, Cava comes in different levels of sweetness ranging from dolsec to the super dry brut nature. It’s one of the world’s best value sparkling wines.
The classic style of sparkling wine from Germany, Deutscher Sekt is made exclusively from German grapes, while Sekt b.A. or Winzersekt comes from the country’s 13 quality wine regions. Premium wines typically use Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir grapes and undergo a secondary fermentation, otherwise known as the Charmat method, in tanks or in the bottle.
Article by Mike James