Whether you are celebrating something or just enjoying on a normal day, sparkling wine can be a great addition….. and there is just something special about bubbles!  Don’t think that you need to save bubbles for a special occasion, many sparkling wines are also great with food, in cocktails and of course just on their own!

Our last Vancity Wine Club event enjoyed sparkling wines from all over the world in different styles and learned the differences between Champagne and Crémant, Prosecco and Cava and of course Sparkling Wine!

There is a reason that Champagne is expensive….. so we are going to dive into why.  Champagne, like most other French wines is highly regulated.  Not only do the grapes need to be grown and made in the Champagne region to bear the name, but can only be made with 3 grape varietals (or a combination of these three) and nothing else. The grapes used in Champagne are: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.  As some of you know two of these three grapes are red varietals – yet Champagne is mostly white (with some rose).  Blanc de Noir styles will use only Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier whilst Blanc de Blanc will use only Chardonnay.  Many aspects of the viticulture involved in making Champagne is also regulated including: pruning, vineyard yield, harvesting, the degree of pressing, and the time that wine must remain on its lees before bottling etc.  It isn’t just all the regulations that make Champagne (generally) more expensive that other sparkling wines it is how manual the process still is.  The grapes are still harvested by hand in Champagne and pressing is done very gently.  The weather in Champagne is also not always agreeable, which can highly affect the yield.  This is why only best years will create a vintage champagne!  For more prestige Cuvées in Champagne riddling (rotating the bottles at an angle) is done by hand.  By law Champagne must also be ages at least 15 months in the bottle (another point that can drive up the price).  Vintage Champagnes are required to age at least 3 years, but most of the top producers exceed this by aging their wines on the lees for 6-8 years!

Of the other main ‘categories or types’ of sparkling wine there can be different flavour profiles.  This can come from the grapes used and the method of production, but also like any wine the flavours will vary based on terrior and aging.  As a consumer you may prefer a certain style because of the finer bubbles or how fruity or creamy it is.  Whatever your preference I am sure there is a sparkling wine out there to suit your palate.  A Crémant is very similar to champagne as it follows the same traditional method of production (secondary fermentation in the bottle) but can use different grapes and is produced outside the champagne region but still in France.  Cava also uses the traditional method but is produced with different grapes (Xarel-lo, Macabeo & Parellada) in the Penedès area of Spain.  Prosecco is the well-known sparkling wine of Italy.  It uses the Tank Method (also called Charmat Method) of production meaning it undergoes secondary fermentation in a pressurized tank instead of the bottle like Champagne.  Without the strict regulations sparkling wine from other new world areas like Canada, USA or Australia can choose what grapes they use, the method of production and the amount they age their wines – I hope now you see why there are such vast differences among different sparkling wines!

Here are the wines we tried at our Tiny Bubbles event and the average group score for each (out of 5):

  • Varias Cava, Spain                                                                   3.3
  • Vaporetto Prosecco, Italy                                                        3.0
  • Jaillance Crémant de Bordeaux  Brut Rosé, France            3.6               
  • Bollinger Champagne Special Cuvée, France                      3.6               
  • Cipes Brut Sparkling Wine                                                      3.0

As you can see France did come out our overall winner with the Crémant and Champagne pulling in the top scores, but what you don’t see is there is some fluctuation in individual scores based on what flavours that each member enjoyed.  The take-away should be that there are vast differences in sparkling wine and the best way to discover what flavours you like is to go out and try some, but don’t forget to take a moment to think about the wines you are tasting and make a note (even if just a mental note) of WHY you do or do not like something and what flavours appeal to YOU!

We hope you find a reason to celebrate this summer (even if you are just celebrating the weekend) and pop open some bubbly!

Cheers….. Santé….. Cin-Cin…..Nostrovia…. Salud!