As the weather gets warmer, you might be craving a lighter wine than the heavy reds of winter.
And what better light wine than a glass of bubbles?
Not just for special occasions, fizzy wine is delicious paired with a wide range of foods, including seafood, cheese platters, cold meat cuts, pasta and salads.
There are so many different styles from different grapes and countries, so Christine Ricketts, Cellar Director of Cellarmasters breaks down the difference in the bubbles.
“People usually think of sparkling wine as one variety, but in reality, there are many differences between sparkling wines and even between Champagnes,” she says.
Champagne – vintage & bruts
“Champagne is famously called so because of the French region in which it’s made, and the method of making Champagne, ‘Methode Champenoise’, has strict regulations,” says Ricketts.
“However, as the Champagne region is home to close to 20,000 growers, there are many differences between styles.
The biggest differences are Vintage versus Non-Vintage (NV) and Brut and Demi-Sec.
Vintage means the year the grapes were harvested. Vintage Champagne means the grapes come from a specific year, and only quality years make it to vintage, so this makes up for a very small percentage of champagne. Non-vintage champagne contain grapes are from different years of harvest, and is the most common type of Champagne.
NV champagne is kept on lees (that is, fermented in the same bottle it is sold in) for at least 15 months, whereas Vintage Champagne has to be kept on lees for at least three years.
The taste of champagne ranges from dry to sweet – the Bruts (Brut Nature, Extra Brut and Brut) all have very little sugar added, less than 15 grams, whereas a Demi-Sec has up to 50 grams of sugar, and a Doux is on the sugary side with over 50 grams.”
Ricketts recommends Lanson Black Label Brut Champagne NV.
For a limited time, you can purchase a bottle of the Lanson in a special edition music box. The unique case allows a smartphone to be docked in the top lid, enabling an amplified sound when music is played from the phone, transforming the Lanson Music Box into a makeshift speaker. You can buy it here.
Australian sparkling wine
“The majority of sparkling wine in Australia is made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes – which are also used in Champagne making,” Ricketts says.
“Tasmania is fast becoming the most recognised place for premium Australian sparkling wines, mainly due to the fact it has a super cool climate (the Champagne region is one of the world’s most Northern wine regions).
The flavours of good sparkling is a combination of production method and acid balance, with cool climates providing the perfect climate for retaining acid in the grapes. Top notch Tasmanian sparkling has the layered complexities of Champagne, but more underlying fruit flavours. It’s still dry and has biscuity notes, so Tassie sparkling is a great, affordable alternative to Champagne.”
Ricketts recommends Riversdale Estate Crux Sparkling NV.
Ricketts says “Prosecco is the national sparkling of Italy and is made from the grape of the same name – prosecco is lighter and slightly more fruit-driven than Champagne.
Prosecco is mostly produced by using the Charmat method, which forces the second fermentation to happen in a large stainless steel tank prior to bottling, rather than in the bottle for traditional méthode champenoise.
“A sharp rise in quality in recent years has seen Prosecco gain popularity in Australia, and some exceptional Aussie Proseccos come from Northern Victoria.”
Ricketts recommends Wordsmith Bed Of Roses Alpine Valley Prosecco NV.
“Cava is the name of Spanish sparkling wines produced across the country from varied grapes and in varied styles,” says Ricketts.
“Cava can only be made in Spain, and only wines produced in the champenoise traditional method may be labelled Cava. Cava is normally drier than Prosecco – on a par with Champagne – but is arguably less complex.
The vast majority of this Spanish sparkling is made in Catalonia.”
Ricketts recommends Freixenet Vintage Cava 2014.
Sparkling red wine
Ricketts says “Sparkling red wine is one of the most unique sparkling styles in the world, originally a French invention but now championed by Australian winemakers.
Shiraz is by far the most widely made sparkling red variety, and its soft tannins are ideally suited to be enjoyed with food.
The style is often made from current vintage grapes and older base wine, sometimes even including fortified base stock or decades’ old wine.”
Ricketts recommends Bleasdale Sparkling Shiraz.
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