Want to know all about sparkling wines and pick the best ones for your collection?
When it comes to this festive drink, popping open a Dom Perignon Champagne bottle may be the first thing that comes to your mind. Even though Champagne is the most popular bubbly out there, it’s certainly not the only one you should have in your wine cellar!
So, what are the different types of sparkling wines? How are they made?
And most importantly - which are some of the best sparkling wines you should buy in 2020?
In this article, we’ll answer all of your questions, including the easiest way to buy sparkling wines.
This Article Contains:
(Click on the links below to go to a specific section)
- What is Sparkling Wine?
- How are Sparkling Wines Made?
- Best Sparkling Wines by Country
- Best Sparkling Wines to Buy in 2020 (Including Prices, Tasting Notes)
- Roederer Estate Cristal Brut 2008
- Elvio Tintero Sori Gramella Moscato d’Asti 2015
- Vignobles Bulliat NV Brut Nature Crémant de Bourgogne 2014
- Camille Braun Coeur de Cuvee Crémant d’Alsace 2011
- Lini 910 Labrusca Lambrusco Rosso 2018
- Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 2009
- Krug Vintage Brut 2006
- Veuve Clicquot Brut 2010
- Dom Perignon 2004
- Moët & Chandon 2008 Grand Vintage Brut
Let’s dive in!
What is Sparkling Wine?
Sparkling wine is a type of wine with high carbon dioxide levels, which makes it fizzy. The bubbles result from natural fermentation that occurs either in the bottle or in a large tank.
The fermentation happens when sugar is added to wine, and yeast starts acting on the sugar, releasing carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide trapped inside a sealed space creates bubbles in the wine.
Many people refer to sparkling wine as Champagne. However, this term is exclusively reserved only for the sparkling wines made in the Champagne region of France.
Champagne wines account for 60% of France’s sparkling wine production (total of 550 million bottles).
But how did it all begin?
A brief history of sparkling wine
The effervescence that appears in wine has been observed since 4000 BC in ancient Greece and Rome. However, people didn’t understand how the bubbles were formed and believed that spirits have something to do with it.
The most famous legend of the invention of sparkling wine dates back to the 1600s. It is believed that the monk Dom Pérignon who lived in Champagne, France bottled his wine when the fermentation was interrupted by the low temperatures, and the wine wasn’t fully fermented.
When the temperatures rose again, the yeast continued to ferment the wine in the bottles. So, the carbon dioxide had nowhere to escape and thus created the bubbles in the wine.
The high pressure inside caused many of the bottles to burst.
Until the 18th century, many winemakers had to wear iron masks since bottles would pop very often and cause a chain reaction in their cellars.
When the French started shipping sparkling wine to England, the English decided to put it in thicker bottles with corks to prevent such “explosions.” And that’s how sparkling wine is bottled even nowadays since it’s the safest way to preserve it.
Types of sparkling wine
Sparkling wine is usually white or rosé, but there are some red varieties too. And if you don’t like too many bubbles in your glass, you can try the semi-sparkling type.
Let’s see the sparkling wine types in more detail.
1. Semi-sparkling wine
According to EU regulations, wine with a pressure of three atmospheres and more is categorized as sparkling wine. Most sparkling wines have 5 to 6 atmospheres of pressure (twice more than the pressure in your car’s tires!)
However, semi-sparkling wine has a pressure between 1 and 2.5 atmospheres and is perfect if you want to take it easy on the bubbles. Some fine examples are the Italian Frizzante, French Pétillant, and German Spritzig wines.
2. Red sparkling wine
Red sparkling wines are made with red grapes without removing their skins, which tints the wine red.
Apart from wines like Asti Spumante, Italy has a long history of making red sparkling wine like the famous Lambrusco, but you can find some good ones from Australia and Moldova too.
How are Sparkling Wines Made?
The process is similar to the production of still wines. However, there are a few notable differences:
- Grapes are harvested earlier to achieve higher acidity levels.
- Grapes are usually harvested by hand to reduce the tannin levels and other phenolic components that wines have.
- The press house is usually close to the vineyard, so grapes can be separated from their skins as fast as possible.
Can white sparkling wines be made with red grapes?
Yes, sparkling white wine can be made with red grape varieties like Pinot Noir, and they’re called Blanc de Noir sparkling wines (white of blacks). Their juice is initially clear and gets the red wine color when it comes in contact with red grape skins.
In contrast, the sparklers made from white grapes are called Blanc de Blancs (white of whites).
Now let’s see what happens after the grapes are harvested and pressed.
During the primary fermentation, sparkling wines go through the same process as still wines. However, some winemakers add special sparkling wine yeast.
Also, some sparkling wines go through malolactic fermentation while others don’t. If the goal is to make a simpler and fruitier sparkler, then malolactic fermentation is skipped.
After the fermentation, the base wine varietals are blended into a cuvee (a wine blend).
Most sparkling wines are a mix of different grape varietals. But there are also some sparkling wines like the Blanc de Blancs, which are made of only one grape varietal.
After the first fermentation process is over, the wine goes through secondary fermentation. During this stage, the carbon dioxide is trapped in the bottle, and it dissolves in the wine.
There are five methods in which the secondary fermentation is carried out:
1. The Traditional Method
The traditional method is also called Methode champenoise or the Champagne method. That’s when winemakers put the base cuvee in bottles with yeast and sugar.
While in the bottle, the yeast feeds on this sugar, releasing carbon dioxide, which is trapped in the bottle. Once the fermentation is over, winemakers remove the dead yeast (lees), while the carbon dioxide levels are maintained.
Often winemakers add more wine and sugar to adjust the sweetness of the sparkling wine after the lees are removed.
2. Methode Ancestrale
In methode ancestrale, the dead yeast removal step is skipped. So, the sparkling wine is sold with the lees leftover sediment.
3. The Transfer Method
In the transfer method, the sparkling wine from the bottles is emptied in large tanks after it goes through secondary fermentation and dead yeast removal.
The wine is then filtered in the tanks. After that, winemakers package them, and the sparkling wine is ready for sale.
4. The Charmat Method
The Charmat method takes place in stainless steel tanks where the wine fermented with yeast and sugar. Once the fermentation is over, the wine is cooled, clarified, and put into bottles.
5. The Soda Method
This is when carbon dioxide is injected into regular wine just as with fizzy soda drinks. In this case, the wine doesn’t go through a second fermentation and results in large bubbles that dissipate quickly.
This method is used on the cheapest sparkling wines. In the EU, such wines have a label “aerated sparkling wine” and “obtained by adding carbon dioxide.”
What gives Champagne and Sparkling Wine its Bubbles?
You can observe the rise of bubbles after the sparkling wine is poured in your glass.
The bubbles form on the glass imperfections. These imperfections help the carbon dioxide diffuse into the wine before it rises out of the glass in bubbles.
On average, a bottle of Champagne contains 49 million bubbles. And because the bubbles help alcohol reach your bloodstream much faster, you can get drunk quicker than if you’re drinking still wine!
Are All Sparkling Wines Sweet?
Sparkling wines have different levels of sweetness. Wine producers usually add some sugar after the secondary fermentation.
Depending on how much sugar is added, sparkling wine has different sweetness levels, depending on the residual sugar left after fermentation.
They are split into seven categories:
- Brut Nature or Brut Zero: Sparkling wines with 0-3 grams of sugar per liter.
- Extra Brut: Sparkling wines with 3-6 grams of sugar per liter.
- Brut: Sparkling wines with 6-12 grams of sugar per liter.
- Extra-Sec (or extra dry): Sparkling wines with 12-20 grams of sugar per liter.
- Sec: Sparkling wines with 17-35 grams of sugar per liter.
- Demi-Sec: Sparkling wines with 33-50 grams of sugar per liter.
Doux: Sparkling wines with over 50 grams of sugar per liter.
Best Sparkling Wines by Country
Sparkling wines can also be categorized by country of origin. Here are the most popular ones:
French Sparkling Wines
France is the second-largest producer and exporter of sparkling wine, and it’s the home country of Champagne.
True Champagne is a blend of several grape varieties and vintages.
The most popular Champagne blend is from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes.
The Chardonnay grapes contribute to the aging ability of Champagne. Pinot Noir grapes add body. Pinot Meunier brings out the rich fruity and floral aroma.
The Crémant name means creamy. The name was used for wines with lower carbon dioxide levels. Such wines were not as sparkling and gave a creamy aftertaste instead of a sharp fizzy one.
The Crémant wines are currently produced in eight appellations in France and two in Belgium.
Nowadays, many Crémant wines have higher pressure and are more bubbly, but the name remains.
The most popular Cremant are:
- Crémant de Bordeaux
- Crémant de Limoux
- Crémant de Loire
Other French Sparkling Wines
The other popular sparkling wines from France are:
- Anjou mousseux AOC
- Blanquette de Limoux AOC
- Blanquette méthode ancestrale AOC
- Bourgogne mousseux AOC
- Clairette de Die AOC
- Saumur mousseux AOC
- Touraine mousseux AOC
Sparkling Wines From Other Countries
Italian Sparkling Wines
Some very famous Italian sparkling wines you may have heard of are Prosecco and Asti. Both of them are made using the Charmat process.
Asti wines are made from the Moscato grape varietal and are slightly sweet.
Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine produced in the Veneto region and is made with the Glera grape varietal. It comes in both fully sparkling (spumante) and semi-sparkling (frizzante) style.
Other sparkling wines from Italy are Franciacorta and Lambrusco.
Spanish Sparkling Wines
Have you heard of Spanish Cava? It’s the most famous sparkling wine from Spain. It is white or pink and varies in sweetness.
For a sparkling wine to be certified as Cava, it has to be produced in one of the six designated appellations, and the secondary fermentation should be done according to the traditional method. It is usually made with the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Parellada grapes.
Portuguese Sparkling Wines
Espumante is the traditional Portuguese sparkling wine that can be produced only in DOC Bairrada.
To qualify as quality Espumante wine, it should go through the traditional method of secondary fermentation and have the stamp of VEQPRD certification.
German Sparkling Wine
Sekt is the German sparkling wine, and most of it is produced by the Charmat method.
The Sekt sparkling wine has to be at least 10% alcohol volume and pressure of three atmospheres. Over 90% of the Sekt wine is a blend of French, Italian, and Spanish wines imported into Germany.
A similar sparkling wine called Hauersekt is produced in Austria.
Hungarian Sparkling Wine
The making of Hungarian sparkling wine called Pezsgő dates back to the 19th century.
Nowadays, most of the pezsgő wines are made according to the Charmant method and are a blend of Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and other local grape varieties.
Romanian Sparkling Wine
The sparkling wine in Romania is made in two main regions - Panciu and Azuga. They’re usually made from Chardonnay and other Romanian grape varietals.
English Sparkling Wine
The English sparkling wine production from local grapes started in the 1960s. The most planted grapes for sparkling wine are the traditional Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.
American Sparkling Wine
Most American sparkling wine is produced in California. The traditional blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier is used often. However, the regulations are not as strict as in Europe.
American sparkling wine can age anywhere from eight months to six years, and the blend is not as rich. The grape varietals mix rarely exceeds 20 and is from only 1-2 vintages.
Canadian Sparkling Wine
The Niagara Peninsula in Ontario is the largest wine-growing region in Canada, and most grape varietals used for the Canadian sparkling wine come from there. Typically they’re a blend of Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Gamay grapes.
Australian Sparkling Wine
The center of Australian sparkling wine production is Tasmania. And the unique Australian sparkling wine you’ve probably heard of is Shiraz. This red sparkling wine is made from Shiraz grapes, and it’s usually sweet, tannic, and full-bodied.
Chilean Sparkling Wine
The Chilean sparkling wines are not as popular, but there are some interesting and unique options.
Even though there are some cheaper sparkling wines, there are also some very high-quality ones made from Pinot and Chardonnay. You can even stumble upon Pinot grapes blended with strawberry pulp!
South African Sparkling Wine
South African sparkling wine is made according to the Méthode Cap Classique (MCC), which is the traditional method of secondary fermentation.
The most popular wine blend is a mix of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but some winemakers use local grape varietals too. The sparkling wine is fruity and resembles the wines produced in the Champagne region since the climates are very similar.
Best Sparkling Wines to Buy in 2020 (Including Prices, Tasting Notes)
1. Krug Vintage Brut Champagne 2006
This Champagne made in the Champagne region has high acidity and fizz. This luxurious Champagne is a great addition to cheese platters, and it’s a great celebratory drink.
Tasting notes: The vintage of 2006 has a rich nutty flavor of almonds and hazelnuts mixed with a light fruity taste of peaches, apples, and apricots.
Average price of Krug Vintage Brut Champagne 2006: $268
2. Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Vintage Brut Champagne 2010
This Champagne is very bubbly and highly-acidic, making it the perfect drink to get you in the mood for celebration.
It’s one of the classic Champagnes that achieves a balance between power and elegance, all combined in your glass.
Tasting notes: The 2010 vintage has a nutty taste with notes of biscuit, toast, apples, and citrus.
Average price of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Vintage Brut Champagne 2010: $88
Dom Perignon is a unique Champagne that is associated with the legend of the French monk Dom Perignon and his discovery of sparkling winemaking.
Tasting notes: You’ll love the taste of apple and pear mixed with almond flavor and a citrusy hint.
Average price of Dom Perignon 2004: $181
4. Moët & Chandon 2008 Grand Vintage Brut
Moët & Chandon is one of the most famous Champagne houses and also owns the Dom Perignon brand. The Moët & Chandon 2008 Grand Vintage Brut Champagne is intense, complex and yet perfectly balanced.
Tasting notes: The 2008 vintage has a slightly nutty taste and a fruity flavor with a hint of citrus.
Average price of Moët & Chandon 2008 Grand Vintage Brut: $75
5. Roederer Estate Cristal Brut 2008
This delicious sparkling wine is made in the Louis Roederer Estate Champagne house in the Anderson Valley, CA.
Tasting notes: The 2008 vintage has fruity notes of pear and apple balanced with a slight hazelnut flavor on the palate.
Average price of Roederer Estate Cristal Brut 2008: $255
6. Elvio Tintero Sori Gramella Moscato d’Asti 2015
This semi-sweet, low alcohol sparkler from Asti in Piedmont, Northern Italy, is the perfect sparkling Moscato for an aperitif or a sweet dessert.
Tasting notes: The wine has fruity flavors of apricot, peach, and apple, a hint of citrus taste, and a mild honey end.
Average price of Elvio Tintero Sori Gramella Moscato d’Asti 2015: $12
7. Vignobles Bulliat NV Brut Nature Crémant de Bourgogne 2014
This creamy sparkling wine is made of 100% Chardonnay grapes in the Bourgogne region of France.
Tasting notes: The 2014 vintage has fruity notes of apple and peach with a slight citrus hint.
Average price of Vignobles Bulliat NV Brut Nature Crémant de Bourgogne 2014: $18
8. Camille Braun Coeur de Cuvée Crémant d’Alsace 2011
This is another sparkling wine made in the Crémant style produced in the Alsace region. This light wine goes well with aperitifs, snacks, and fish.
Tasting notes: The 2011 vintage has a deep and rich aromatic flavor of apples, a hint of cinnamon and a long-lasting and soft finish.
Average price of Camille Braun Coeur de Cuvée Crémant d’Alsace 2011: $19
9. Lini 910 Labrusca Lambrusco Rosso 2018
This Lambrusco sparkling wine is from the Italian region of Bologna. It’s a dry red bubbly and has medium acidity levels.
Tasting notes: The vintage of 2018 has intense fruity flavors of cherry, blackberry, plum, and strawberry.
Average price of Lini 910 Labrusca Lambrusco Rosso 2018: $18
10. Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 2009
This bubbly is produced from 100% Chardonnay grapes in Northern California (the Napa-Sonoma-Marin appellation). It’s also a great sparkling wine to put in the cellar to age for 5-6 years, so you get the most out of it.
Tasting notes: The 2009 vintage is a flavourful combination of pear and vanilla taste with a hint of lime.
Average price of Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 2009: $100
How to Buy Sparkling Wines?
You can always go to the nearest wine shop and see what it offers in terms of sparkling wines. Or you can shop for more specific brands online.
However, this includes lots of research, shipping precautions, and setting up a proper cellar space for your special bubblies. And you should also figure out your insurance in case you get a counterfeit bottle.
That’s a lot to take care of before getting hold of the best sparkling wines out there.
Luckily, there’s a much easier way to buy sparkling wines!
Buy the Best Sparkling Wines Through Vinovest
Vinovest is an online wine investment platform through which you can easily buy your sparkling wines for drinking and investing. Not only do we have access to some of the most sought after sparkling wines in the world, but we also give you guidance on which ones have the ability to age and potentially gain value over time.
With Vinovest, you can not only buy wines but also authenticate, store, and sell them, and even get them safely delivered to your doorstep.
How it Works
All you have to do is:
- Sign up on the Vinovest website.
- Fill out a brief questionnaire on your investment preferences and risk tolerance.
- Add a minimum of $1000 to your account.
- Track the growth of your fine wine portfolio online.
Benefits of Buying Sparkling Wines through Vinovest
And here’s why you should use Vinovest to buy, sell, and store all your wines, including the sparkling ones!
Easy Buying and Selling
The powerful AI Vinovest platform allows you to buy and sell wine from anywhere in the world, just with a few mouse clicks.
Vinovest gives you access to wholesale prices since it sources its wines directly from winemakers, merchants, and wine exchange platforms.
Provenance and Authenticity
With Vinovest, you don’t have to worry about counterfeit bottles since Vinovest checks the provenance of every individual bottle before you buy it.
Your wine portfolio is carefully curated by wine Sommeliers and data scientists who analyze the financial models backed up by historical data.
Your wines are stored in warehouses with proper temperature, humidity, light, temperature, and vibration, which are always monitored and regulated.
Your wines are always safe with Vinovest since there are 24/7 surveillance cameras in all warehouses. In case of a power failure, there’s also a power back-up that ensures that the proper wine storing conditions are maintained.
VInovest also has an insurance policy that protects your wines at all times.
Access to a Global Network
You get access to private wineries, rare wines, and new vineyards through the Vinovest global exchange network.
Every single bottle that you buy through Vinovest belongs to you!
And in case you want to sip your bubbly, Vinovest will deliver it safely to your doorstep.
You can find lots of sparkling wines online and in specialized wine stores. But you never know if you’re getting the best price or an authentic bottle.
With Vinovest, a team of specialists takes care of all that, ensuring you get the best quality at the best price.
You only have to decide whether you want to store your sparkling wine, invest in it, or pop a bottle on your next big celebration!
So, why not try Vinovest today? Sign up to start building your wine collection right away!