This piece was written for Daily Hive by DJ Kearney, Director of Wine at newdistrict.ca.
It’s officially the season of sparkling, but for a lot of us, we don’t know the difference between Baby Duck and Dom Perignon – well, other than the wildly different price tag.
We all love adding a little glam to holiday finery at this time of year, so why not up your wine game with some thrilling bubbly wine? Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, Asti, and brilliant local bubbles – there are so many to choose from.
We wanted to drop some essential bubbly intel and bring some sparkle into your life. Here’s some Sparkling 101 to boost your bubble IQ.
Let’s decode the main terms for different styles of sparkling wines to help you look like a pro.
This is the archetype for sparkling wines. Over 300 million bottles of Champagne are made each year. The word ‘Champagne’ must only be used for wines that are made in the French region named Champagne. These wines are only ever made in one way, by the painstaking traditional method of second fermentation inside the bottle that you buy.
Three grapes are typically used: white Chardonnay, red Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Most Champagne is termed ‘non-vintage’ and made from a blend of different lots of wines from different grapes, vineyards, and years.
Three to four times a decade the climate deals up ideal conditions for grapes to reach perfect levels of ripeness and balance. The wine needs no assistance or improvement from blending or reserve wines. These wines may still be blended from various grapes and vineyard parcels, but all from one growing season.
Ones to try: Champagne Deutz, Marie Demets Brut Tradition, 2009 Pierre Gimonnet et Fils.
Cava is a fizzy wine from Spain. It’s made just like Champagne with the second fermentation in the bottle, but the grapes differ: local white and red Catalan grapes are used (although the Champagne grapes are permitted in the blend). There are a few cost-cutting bits of automation that allow Cava to be priced well below Champagne.
Cava owns over 10% of the global sparkling market, proving that these terrific value wines have massive appeal. Parès Baltá Cava is a lean and lemony organic beauty with dazzling acidity and Champagne-like finesse (for just $24), and Cava Gran Duran offers toast and chestnutty richness.
Moscato d’ Asti is made in a large tank, just like Prosecco, but is always a sweet, dessert-style wine from the Muscat grape.
The bubbles are soft, carbonation is very low, and with only 5.5% alcohol you can pair with breakfast waffles no problem. This one from Tranchero (pronounced Tran-care-o) gushes with apricot, orange and tropical fruit flavours, floating on a pillowy mousse of gentle bubbles – perfect for morning enjoyment.
Prosecco is a lifestyle. The Venetian region of Italy is home to one of the most beloved bargain bubbles. The wine is made quite simply with two fermentations in large tanks (rather than individual bottles) and the point of Prosecco is soft peachy charm, creamy mousse, and affordability.
If you spend a little more however, you get an up-market Prosecco experience for New Year’s Eve. Try Zardetto’s Refosso Brut – it’s from the top quality nugget of the Prosecco zone. Or go completely geeky, and try a fabulous version of fizz from Australia. Alpha Box & Dice Zaptung Prosecco has a crazy-cool label and major sass.