‘Tis the Season for Tiny Bubbles 

Photo: Jeshoots.com

Not all sparkling wines get their bubbles from the same process. The original French method, la méthode traditionelle or la méthode champenoise, requires that one first make a still wine. This white wine has too much acidity and is not a pleasure to drink. So the wine is bottled, with some added yeast and sugar, and sealed. The yeast starts to consume the sugar and make alcohol. This is fermentation, and, as it occurs in a closed bottle, the carbon dioxide that is produced remains trapped inside the bottle.  

Also left in the bottle are natural sediments. After spending time upside down to draw the sediment into the bottleneck, the bottles are opened. The sediment is disgorged and a small amount of sugar is added and the wine is stored. Later, when you open the bottle and pour, the carbon dioxide is released in the form of tiny bubbles. This method is recognized as producing the finest quality sparkling wines such as Champagne. 

The Champagne region of France is an extremely challenging region in which to grow wine grapes as the winters are long and wet, and clouds block the sun for extended periods during the growing season. Thus, Champagne grapes never fully ripen.  

The principal grape varietals used are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Their percentages vary depending upon the quality of the fruit for each vintage (year) or the style of the Champagne house. Most Champagne is a blend of these three varietals. 

Most are also a blend of several different years’ harvests. Some years produce particularly good fruit, and are sold as vintage Champagnes, which age very well. Most of the vintages on the market right now are between 2004 and 2009.  

Bubbly Outside of France 

Italy produces lots of sparkling wines. The most famous is Prosecco with its frizzante or spumante style. Spain is well-known for its Cava sparkling wine. California produces excellent sparkling wine such as the Schramsberg, J Vineyards, and Iron Horse brands 

A final note. Sparkling wine should be served cold right out of the refrigerator so make sure to have a bottle of bubbly in the refrigerator at all times.  

Best Wine Purveyors is a destination retail wine and spirits store in Pleasantville. The curated store offers free tastings, wine seminars, special events, sterling expertise, and a first-rate client experience. You can reach Thierry at 914-579-2280 or tpradines@bestwinepurveyors.com. 

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About the Author: Thierry Pradines