August 04, 2022 5 min read
Sekt, fizz, bubbles, sparkling, pétillant, bubbly, sparkling, bubble... the choice of sparkling wines, now produced in a wide variety of countries, has become truly vast: different production methods, many grape varieties used and a multitude of expressions depending on the region where they are produced.
First of all, it is necessary to know that there are two types of bubbly (or lively wines) that are distinguished according to the pressure inside the bottle: sparkling wine (over 3 bars/atmospheres of pressure) and semi-sparkling wine (between 1 and 3 bars); still wine, on the other hand, has a pressure of less than 1 bar. Let us therefore focus on sparkling wine.
The question arises: how to navigate the intricate world of bubbles and choose the best sparkling wine?
Once you consider the following 5 basic criteria, you will see that it is not that difficult...
The basic principle for choosing the best sparkling wine is presented by the method of production: preference should be given to wines produced by natural methods where the effervescence is due to the carbon dioxide that develops spontaneously during the second fermentation; these are sparkling wines produced with the Classic Method or with the Charmat Method (or Martinotti).
In the Classic Method, which is typical of productions such as Champagne, Franciacorta and Trento DOC, the frothing takes place directly in the bottle. In the case of the Charmat Method, however, fermentation takes place in an autoclave: this method is used for the production of Spumante, Prosecco and Moscato.
Carbonated sparkling wines are conversely created by insufflating carbon dioxide into the wine (an intervention called 'carbonation') as is also the case with water or other carbonated beverages. The quality of the wines is affected: aromatically, it is identical to the base wine before carbonation (unlike the classic and charmat methods, which develop aromas derived from the second fermentation and subsequent stay on the lees). The label will bear the words 'CO2-added (carbon dioxide), a wording that will never be present on DOC and DOCG sparkling wines, which cannot be enriched with carbon dioxide instead.
The second criterion for choosing the right sparkling wine lies in the selection of the degree of sweetness (sugar dosage), a decision that will be made based on personal preference, occurrence, and food pairings (end of consumption). Sparkling wines are classified according to residual sugars as follows:
Extremely dry sparkling wines ideal with appetizers or fish dishes, (sea bass, sea bream, mackerel, etc.) or with grilled meats.
Dry, almost sugar-free sparkling wines, perfect with fatty fish (salmon or eel), or with oysters.
Sparkling wine in which the perception of slight sweetness is covered by the sensation of effervescence. Ideal with cured meats, fish (trout, perch or sole) or even throughout a meal (leaving out dessert).
A soft sparkling wine excellent for accompanying dishes with a sweet note (chestnuts, shellfish or pumpkin) or for contrasting dishes with a bitter note such as liver.
A sweetish wine (with some pronounced sweet notes), ideal paired with cheese or dry pastries.
Distinctly sweet wine perfect for watering down cakes, spoon desserts and typical holiday desserts such as panettone, colomba and pandoro.
This version of sparkling wine also pairs well with desserts, etc., such as Demi Sec.
As a comparison we can consider that one teaspoon contains about 6 grams of sugar.
The third criterion of choice is presented by the color of the wine, which comes from the grapes used.
They are the best known and can be derived from both red and white grape varieties: the most popular cuvée is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
This is the designation that indicates that the wine is made only from white grapes such as Chardonnay.
It implies that the wine is white but was made from red grapes: Pinot Noir.
They are made from red grapes: thanks to a short maceration of the skins in the must, the nectar acquires a magnificent pink color (which depends on the grapes used, Merlot grapes for example) and the winemaker's choices.
These are wines that are found less frequently, but there are some goodies related to the uniqueness of the area such as the red sparkling wine produced in Ticino with Uva Fragola for example, the Fragolino or the Lambrusco.
Considering the importance of respecting the environment, the global goal of reducing harmful emissions by avoiding (or at least decreasing) lengthy transportation of foodstuffs, and also screening the intent to enhance the region and the products of its land, territoriality presents one of the basic criteria in the choice of wine.
In choosing the best sparkling wine for one's own consumption, it is therefore desirable to give precedence to zero-mileage products thereby satisfying the principle of sustainability and enhancing the fruits of one's own region.
A final factor we can consider is the vintage, which is the year of the harvest.
Usually sparkling wines do not have this indication as they are the product of blends (or cuvées) of grapes from different vintages. Normally sparkling wines are not vintage wines since they are produced by blending wines from different vintages in order to maintain a quality that is consistent and stable across the different productions. In some cases and particularly in Champagnes, Reserve wines are essential to find a certain regularity in the quality of the wine.
Consequently, the term 'vintage' (or 'millesimé' in France) appears only if there has been a particularly good vintage. According to the law, this term can only come into use if at least 85 percent of the grapes made into wine come from the same vintage and therefore from the same year (or vintage) indicated on the label.
It may happen, however, that on the occasion of an exceptional vintage a producer decides to produce sparkling wine using only 100 percent grapes from the same harvest. Thus the term 'vintage' denotes greater value.
A lesser known aspect of the celebrated organoleptic evaluation, that is, the analysis of wine by the organs of sight, smell and taste, is that this can also contemplate an auditory examination. Indeed, there are those who like the sizzle of bubbles, which in rising to the surface of the glass, burst. On this subject the well-known French writer and painter (1876-1944) as well as Champagne expert Max Jacob wrote: "Champagne, if one has the time to listen, makes the same noise, in the froth and in the glass, as the sea on the sand.”
Listening to believe!
In choosing the best sparkling wine, let your mind guide you by rationally evaluating all the listed parameters, but most importantly...let the magic of the bubbles envelop you and enjoy the moment!
Dalle nostre produzioni vi consigliamo le bollicine prodotte con il metodo Charmat lungo: