From a trusted name and made during a fruitful year, this Champagne is balanced and impressive from start to finish. Hints of apple blossom, green apple, quince, vanilla, and clove. High acidity and moderate fruit intensity. Drink now or save for up to 10 years.
Dry, fruity, acidic French sparkling at a low cost. Mix of chardonnay, chenin blanc, and cabernet Franc. Notes of apple, grapefruit, and citrus. Hints of cream and mineral. Pairs well with spice, seafood, and vegetables.
Should be enjoyed now and not saved.
Quality, bone-dry, light-bodied Champagne without intense fruitiness. Notes of subtle mango and ginger with mix of mineral and flint flavor. Reasonable price for sparkling from this region.
Lacks any sweetness; fruit flavors may be too faint for some.
One of the most trusted and embraced luxury brands of Champagne. Dry, bright, and bold with notes of citrus and apple, and hints of mineral. Pairs well with white fish, cured meats, and cheeses. May come in a gift box or with accessories.
Branding and popularity lead to somewhat inflated, high cost.
Citrus and honey aromas give way to apple and peach notes. Fruit forward, crisp, and light. delectable alone or complementing seafood or white meat. Moderate residual sugar make it off-dry. Easy drinking and refreshing.
Not ideal for those who want super dry sparkling.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
For celebrations and refreshing indulgences, whether it’s in the morning with a casual breakfast or at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, look no further than sparkling wine. This bubbly beverage is diverse and versatile: it comes from all around the world and can be white, rosé, and even red. There are expensive, high-end options as well as exceptionally low-cost bottles better used for mixed drinks.
Sparkling wine is actually rather complex to make. First, the normal fermentation required for wine takes place. Then, a second fermentation process creates the bubbles. Unlike wine varietals, sparkling wine doesn’t necessarily possess prevailing traits that can be easily defined. Sparkling wine can be exceptionally dry or highly sweet, light- or medium-bodied, with or without tannin, and fruity, floral, or creamy.
The choices are bountiful, but our guide will help you discern sparkling wine in all its divergent glory. Read on to learn how to identify sparkling wine and what you can expect from different regions so you can make the best choice for your occasion.
There are two prevailing processes for making sparkling wine, and knowing which process yields your preferred results can help you choose products.
Reductive process: Less oxygen is introduced in this process with the goal of preserving and enhancing fruity and floral characteristics. The reductive process yields a variety of sparkling wines, including dry and zesty, light and floral, and sweet and aromatic. This process aligns with more common ideas of what sparkling wine is.
Autolytic process: Also known as the oxidative process, this process enhances the features that come with aging. Wines made with this process may be rich, creamy, and nutty, and they tend to challenge conventional stereotypes of sparkling wine.
Countries and regions around the world have their own predominant type of sparkling wine. Here are some of the most popular types.
Champagne: The premiere sparkling wine of France and a beloved drink of choice around the world, champagne is relatively dry and light, though some options have a bit of sweetness to them and are very acidic. Champagne features notes of citrus and apple alongside almond and a bit of creaminess. The best champagne is aged for at least three years. It can be enjoyed alone or paired with fried and salty foods, as well as fish. The production of champagne is highly regulated: bottles are labeled with specific regions and designations to denote quality.
Cava: This is the most beloved sparkling wine from Spain. Cava tends to be light and dry and features citrus fruits. Notes include quince, apple, lemon, almond, and chamomile. It pairs well with Spanish and Mexican-inspired foods, especially paella, tapas, and chili. Cava boasts many similar flavors to champagne, but it tends to cost less than its popular relative. Cava has various levels of dryness; dulce is the sweetest with 50 grams or more of sugar. Brut nature is superlatively dry with 3 grams of sugar or fewer.
Prosecco: Mostly dry and with medium to high acidity levels, this light-bodied offering is the premiere sparkling wine of Northern Italy. Notable flavors include pear, honeydew, and green apple with hints of cream. Procescco pairs well with Italian cuisine as well as spicy Asian food. Prosecco is made in three levels of sweetness, which denotes how much residual sugar is left over. “Dry” is the sweetest; “extra dry” features less residual sugar; “brut” is the driest with little to no sugar.
Sekt: Germany’s common and popular sparkling wine, Sekt has been gaining attention outside of the country. It can be extra dry or quite sweet and is made from both red and white grapes, including pinot noir and chardonnay. Buyers should take heed of the naming and classification of this sparkling wine. “German Sekt” denotes decent sparkling wine, while “German Sekt b.A.” is a higher-quality bubbly made in a specific region.
The sparkling wines we’ve been discussing come from Old World wine countries around the Mediterranean. However, New World regions make unique and curious sparkling wines as well. Look for Cap Classique in South Africa, which is often made from chardonnay. Sonoma and Napa in California produce varied sparkling wines that rival champagne for a much lower price. Don’t overlook Australia, New Zealand, and Tazmania for their exciting options, either.
Every country has its own ways of creating and designating sparkling wine, and some are more specific than others. You’ll find a variety of names and abbreviations on bottles, particularly those from Spain, Italy, and France. This will specify the region, which in turn may indicate quality. There are other terms, like “reverse” or “gran reserva” that denote how long the bottle was aged, another indicator of quality. Learning all the possible terms takes time, but it’s worth it if you plan to invest in quality sparkling wine.
While champagne is the most well-known sparkling wine to come out of France, the country actually has over 20 other regions that produce unique bubbly wine.
While sparkling white wine and rosé are most common, sparkling red wine is growing in popularity. Here are a few noteworthy options.
Lambrusco: This Italian red sparkling wine can be dry or sweet and light- to medium-bodied. It features notes of cherry, berries, and even rhubarb. The color varies from a light rosy hue to darker shades of red and purple.
Shiraz: This popular and inexpensive red is made into sparkling wine in Australia. Moderate tannin, acidity, and a high ABV make up this medium-bodied option. Notes include black pepper, blueberry, and licorice.
Bugey-Cerdon: This small but active region of France boasts some unique and varied wines, including pinkish sparkling wine with wild berry notes. It’s easy to drink with a hint of sweetness that even goes well with breakfast pastries.
Higher pressure yields finer bubbles, and wine that’s pressurized with three of more atmospheres is considered sparkling wine. If sparkling wine is too bubbly for you, there are options that undergo less pressurization. For example, wine with one to two-and-a-half atmospheres is deemed semi-sparkling. Anything made with less than one atmosphere of pressure is referred to as “beady” and showcases faint bubbles.
One of the most famed luxury bottles of champagne is Veuve Clicquot, named after widow Madame Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, who led her husband’s winemaking company after his death in 1805.
Champagne glasses: Lenox Flute Set
The right glass enhances the look and taste of sparkling wine. We love this set of crystal glass flutes from Lenox, which comes at a solid value.
Wine chiller: Vacu Vin Elegant Wine Cooler
Keep your bottle chilled and conveniently located with a wine cooler. This inexpensive option from Vacu Vin is elegant and effective.
Wine refrigerator: NutriChef Wine Fridge
If you plan on keeping sparkling wine on hand, consider investing in a wine fridge. This reasonably priced NutriChef cooler accommodates 12 bottles.
Inexpensive: You can find decent bottles of sparkling wine for under $30. Some of the cheaper options may be exceptionally sweet.
Mid-range: Quality sparkling wines from all around the world can be purchased for between $30 and $75. These may be aged for years or come from popular regions and vineyards.
Expensive: High-end bottles of sparkling wine, particularly champagne, can sell for well over $75. Some cost several hundred dollars, depending on the age and region.
Sparkling wine generally has a lower alcohol content than table wine because the grapes for sparkling wine are picked when they have a lower sugar level.
Q. What kind of grapes are used to make sparkling wine?
A. Sparkling wine is made from all kinds of grapes, from chardonnay and sauvignon blanc to pinot noir and grenache. The grape, or blend of grapes, goes a long way toward informing the color and primary flavors. If you’re new to sparkling wine, picking one based on the grapes used may be a good way to start your journey. Keep in mind that the extent to which a bottle is dry or sweet, as well as some additional flavors, will be influenced by other factors as well.
Q. How should I serve a bottle of sparkling wine?
A. Because the bottle is pressurized, the cork is ready to pop off. Keep one hand on the bottle and one over the top at all times when you are attempting to open it — if the cork flies off, it could hurt someone.
While some people may use their hand to twist off the cork, it’s recommended that you use a cloth in order to get a better grip and ease some of the force. When pouring, tilt the glass to avoid excess bubbles and pour slowly. Sparkling wine is very rarely decanted. A decanter is only used for select high-quality bottles, particularly champagne, and even then, a specific sparkling wine decanter is required.
Q. How long does sparkling wine last?
A. Before it's opened, sparkling wine can be aged for years and depending on the region and winemaking process, it may be enhanced over time. However, once opened, sparkling wine should be enjoyed right away. Even after a few hours, it will start to lose its verve. You can use a preserver to extend its life for a few days, but the best taste comes within the first few hours.
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