The world of wine is vast and varied. There are thousands of different grapes and wine styles. Don’t get me wrong, all wine is lovely, it’s one of the finest agricultural products on the planet, but there’s one style that rises above all others — sparkling wine.
Today basically every wine-producing country makes some kind of sparkling wine, and the quality overall is incredibly high. The very essence of elegance and finesse in a slim flute glass, the fine bubble streams floating to the surface, the enticing, thirst-quenching palate. Sparkling wine is easy to love, but it’s not all created equal.
What’s the Difference Between Champagne and Sparkling Wine?
Amongst all sparkling wines in the market, one is particularly special, and that’s Champagne. The French delicacy is a type of sparkling wine, yes, but not all sparkling wines are Champagne.
To label a bottle as Champagne, it must come from the Champagne region in North-Eastern France. Here, the conditions are right to produce the most attractive grapes — fruit with piercing acidity and perfect ripeness.
Champagne is more than a place; it’s a production method, too. The famous Méthode Champenoise is behind the wine’s complexity, and it’s this method that makes all the difference.
The Méthode Champenoise
This particular method is time-consuming and labor-intensive. Partially to blame for authentic Champagne’s high prices.
It all starts in the vineyards, where Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes are picked, pressed and vinified into a white, still wine. Not entirely special in this point of the process, it’s what follows what makes the beautiful wine unique.
The wine is bottled with a pinch of wine yeast and sugar, and it’s capped. As the microorganisms feast on the sugar, they release gas, and since it has nowhere to go, it is dissolved in the wine. Voilà, you’ve got your bubbly wine.
There’s more. The wine ages, sometimes for decades, as it gains complexity; only then is it ready to hit the market.
Other Sparkling Wines
The Champagne method is so effective to make premium sparkling wine; it’s used in several countries. That’s how the Spanish Cava, the Italian Franciacorta, the South African Cap Classique and several others come to be.
There are other ways of infusing wine with bubbles, the most popular being the Italian or Charmat method. Here, instead of re-fermenting the wine in the bottle, as they do in Champagne, everything happens in giant stainless steel vats. Yes, it’s cheaper and more practical, but you lose some finesse.
One of the most famous sparkling wines made with this modern method is Prosecco, which is quite lovely and often much cheaper than its French counterpart.
Let’s Raise Our Glasses!
Champagne is great, but we won’t say no to any glass of bubbly wine anytime soon. Sparkling wine is much more than a drink; it’s infused with celebration, it’s present in the most memorable moments, and of course, it’s always there when you invite your guests to have a toast.
So, let’s raise our glasses for all the sparkling wine in the world. May our glasses always be full and our wines fizzy.