Hi guys, when I’m out tasting or shopping I tend to notice a lot of people are confused about sparkling, Champagne and what it all means and is it all really different?! Well the answer is yes so let me try to break it down in a simple fashion:
Champagne and Franciacorta are always going to be your top wines. The “Old World” has strict regulations on winemaking and it’s all controlled by their given governments (in this case PDO for France and DOCG for Italy). Because of this, unfortunately, you won’t always have clear and defining information slapped on the label but take comfort in that they’re making their wine in the most classic and controlled ways, stemming down from generations and ALWAYS Traditional Method.
Outside of these wines are everything else:
Here labels do matter, A LOT. For quality juice and best texture (think bubbles) you want to see that it says Traditional Method. Basically this is telling you that the wine goes through a second fermentation in the bottle and requires more time, attention and aging than other sparkling wines. Patience pays off in this category. The bubbles will be smaller, in-turn making a more round and refined mouthfeel which is key to quality – at least in my opinion. The wine will also age better if that’s what you’re going for and if so, also look for a vintage (year) on the bottle. This will tell you that this was a superior year in the region, good enough to stand on it’s own. Otherwise there are 3-4 vintages blended together for an end product that is consistent in style to that Estate or Chateaux. Note this doesn’t make the wine any less attractive but you’re going to pay a premium when you see 2002 (i.e.) on the label.
Stylistically, taste as much as you can to find your personal preference b/c there are many to choose from from Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry, Sec, Demi-Sec to Doux (dry – sweet basically). I really believe sparkling wine is one of the best wines for pairing (unbeknownst to many). It’s acid cuts fat and the range of these styles make it almost suitable for any dish. Demi-sec, my personal favorite, works great with anything that has a touch of spice. Blanc de Blanc (white of white – made with white grapes) is my close 2nd when I’m wanting something with a little more body.
The Somm’s suggestions:
$$$: Champagne and Franciacorta
$$: Cava (Spanish), Cremant (basically Champagne but coming from outside of the teeny tiny region itself, French) or Sparkling (typically Californian, TM).
$: Prosecco is my suggestion if you want to stay under $15-$20, not TM but a safer bet than most other swill on the market.
Thanks for hearing me out. Hope it helps you on your next shopping endeavour!