There is nothing more glorious than the sound of popping sparkling wine bottles. Except for drinking it, of course! It is imperative that you select some great bubbly for your NYE celebrations this year. You've likely had to make some great sacrifices in 2020, but drinking a great bottle of sparkling wine when the clock strikes midnight is a non-negotiable. Let me fill you in on the basics to understand everything from traditional Champagne to Prosecco, and everything in between! Then scroll to the bottom for some of my favorite sparkling wines from this year & where to purchase them.
When thinking of sparkling wine, typically Champagne or prosecco comes to mind first for many of us. But there are many types of sparkling wine made in various methods that dictate its price point and, in some cases, its popularity. To name a few & the grape varietals that make these wines:
Cava (Xarello, Parelada, Macabeo)
Lambrusco (over 99 varietals, but typically made with Sobara or Sabroso)
Cremant ( Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Cab. Franc)
Champagne (Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir)
Understanding sparkling wine starts with the regions from which they derive from. That is why industry professionals will be quick to correct anyone calling all sparkling wine "Champagne". To simply put it: not all of it is. Only sparkling wine produced in the region of Champagne, France may be titled "Champagne". If you ever find a New World producer (yeah, I'm looking at you California) labeling their wine as Champagne, just know that wine is now living in sparkling isolation for its misuse of terminology! The region of Champagne is synonymous with the origins of sparkling wine. I mean there are literally fossilized traces of vine leaves that date all the way back to the start of the Tertiary Period----the OG. "Methode Champenoise" or the Traditional Method, is how Champagne is produced. The key to this method comes from when the wine is bottled then placed in riddling racks to undergo secondary fermentation. This causes the creation of those ever so desirable bubbles. At this point, winemakers are quite literally "capturing the sparkle". Outside of traditional Champagne, the other wines made using this style include Cavas & Cremants. True Champagne commands a higher price point, but by staying open to the sparkling wines of other regions can land you an inexpensive gem.
Speaking of inexpensive gems, we can't forget about the sparkling wines created via the Charmat Method. Secondary fermentation (sugar + yeast = CO2) occurs in stainless steel tanks & wines can be made in large quantities as a result. The benefits of this method is the preservation of the more delicate fruit tones of the grape varietal being used. This is why Prosecco, Lambrusco & the sparkling wines of Asti (ex. Moscato d'Asti) are great entry points into sparkling wine due to their incredibly fruit forward nature. Plus, the ability to mass produce the wine aids in stabilizing a more value price point.
PRO TIP: Sparkling wines have a completely backwards way of designating sweetness levels in the wine, but without getting into the specifics, here is a brief guide to understanding these key words as you are shopping.