Sparkling Wine Classification
Around 12 –14 % Alcohol By Volume
Champagne is a region in France. This region sits ninety miles northeast of Paris. Champagne only can truly come from this region. “Sparkling wines” refer to the varieties from around the world. Champagne and sparkling wines come from a unique process where the wine is fermented twice.
The harvest of grapes used in Sparkling Wine Production is usually earlier than it is for grapes that will be made into still wine. This ensures that acidity is higher and the sugars are lower. The result is the light, low alcohol wine that is made during the first fermentation.
Grapes used for Sparkling Wine Production often skip the destemming and crushing process. Instead, pressing occurs immediately when the grapes arrive at the winery. A pneumatic press is usually used to extract the juice because it is delicate and agitates the skins as little as possible.
After the grapes are pressed, they undergo their first fermentation. This produces a still white wine with low alcohol and high acidity. Most sparkling wines undergo their initial fermentation in stainless steel tanks.
Blending sparkling wine is an extremely important, labor intensive process. Depending on whether they are making a vintage or non vintage wine, vintners are able to blend separate lots from different parts of the vineyard or wine from previous years. This is a very difficult part of the Sparkling Wine Production process that requires considerable experience as well as an exceptionally refined palate.
Most sparkling wines are not made entirely from one particular vintage. A quantity of wine from past years is usually added at this time for consistency and balance. This results in a non vintage sparkling wine.
On the other hand, vintage sparkling wine is made with grapes from a single growing season. They are only produced in particularly good years, and usually very high quality and quite expensive.
Bottling & Liqueur de Triage Addition
After blending is complete, it is time for bottling. After the necessary ingredients are added, the bottles are capped. The critical ingredient is the liqueur de triage. This is a combination of yeast and sugar that has been dissolved in wine. After they are capped, the bottles are laid on their side in a cool, temperature-controlled space.
As they rest, a second fermentation takes place in the bottle. Because the carbon dioxide is trapped in the bottle, the wine becomes carbonated. The part of the Sparkling Wine Production process rarely takes longer than two weeks and increases the alcohol to around 12%.
Many producers age sparkling wine in the bottle sur lie after the second fermentation is complete. Contact with the dead yeast cells imparts a smooth, creamy character into the wine. High quality sparkling wines that have been aged for a long time have very small bubbles.
After the sparkling wine has been aged on its lees for a sufficient amount of time, it is riddled. Riddlinginvolves working the dead yeast cells to the neck of the bottle. Veuve Clicquot is credited with greatly improving this part of the Sparkling Wine Production process.
During disgorgement, the wine is cooled to the point that a bit of liquid freezes around the dead yeast cells in the neck of the bottle. The goal is to lose as little wine and carbonation as possible, but also remove all of the sediment.
Immediately after disgorgement, an additional dose of sugar may be added to give the wine some residual sweetness. There are several different terms used to identify sparkling wine sugar levels.
Inserting Corks and Labeling
At this point, it is time for inserting corks and adding the capsules and wire cages that secure them. Sparkling wine corks start as cylinders but are changed to their familiar shape by a very tight fit and high pressure. The wine labels are then added, completing the sparkling wine production process.
Champagne is produced at the far extreme of viticultural circumstances, where the grape struggles to ripen in a long drawn out growing season. Cool climate weather limits the varieties of grape, and the types of wine that can be made, but it is in this region that sparkling wine has found its standard bearer. The limestone–chalk soil produces grapes that have a certain balance of acidity, extract and richness that is difficult to replicate in other parts of the world. The Champenois vigorously defend use of the term "Champagne" to relate the specific wine produced in the Champagne wine region. This includes objection to the term "Champagne style" to refer to sparkling wines produced outside the Champagne region. Since 1985, use of the term methode champenoise has been banned in all wines produced or sold in the European Union.
Extra Brut – Extremely dry
Brut – Dry to very dry
Extra Sec – Medium dry
Sec – Dry
Rose – Sweet to Very sweet
Demi – Sec – Sweet
Doux – Very sweet
Sparkling wines designated Crémant ("creamy") were originally named because their lower carbon dioxide pressures were thought to give them a creamy rather than fizzy mouth-feel. Though they may have full pressures today, they are still produced using the traditional method, and have to fulfill strict production criteria.
Cava is the name of a type of Spanish (mostly in Catalonia but also in other regions such as Valencia, La Rioja, Aragon, Extremadura) white or pink sparkling wine produced mainly in the Penedès region in Catalonia, with the méthode champenoise but grape varieties different from grapes used in Champagne making.
Cava is produced in varying levels of dryness of the wine which are:
Brut Nature, Brut - Extra Dry
Sec or Seco - Dry
Semisec or Semiseco - Medium
Dolc or Dulce - Sweet
Espumante, pronounced esh-poo-mant, is the Portuguese version of a sparkling wine. And unlike Cava, which is produced solely in northern climates, Espumante is not only produced in the northern wet region of Vinho Verde, but also throughout Portugal all the way to the southern region of the Alentejo, known for its extreme temperatures and arid climate.
VFQPRD: is a regional sparkling wine made in the traditional champagne, charmat or transfer method in one of the following determined regions: Douro, Ribatejo, Minho, Alentejo or Estremadura.
VQPRD: is a sparkling wine that can made by injecting the wine with gas in the traditional champagne, charmat, transfer method anywhere in Portugal.
Espumosos: the cheapest and lowest level of sparkling wine, made by injecting the wine with CO2.
Sekt is a German term for some sparkling wine. The majority of Sekt produced (around 95%) is made by the Charmat method with the remaining premium Sekt being made according to the méthode traditionnelle. Cheap sparkling wine made with CO2 injection must not be called Sekt, but rather Schaumwein (German for sparkling wine, literally "foam wine"), semi-sparkling wine is called Perlwein.
Asti and Prosecco
Asti and Prosecco, are made with the Charmat method.
Asti is a slightly sweet sparkler made from the Moscato grape in the province of Asti. The wine is noted for its low alcohol levels around 8% and fresh, grapey flavors. Moscato d'Asti is a frizzantestyle slightly sparkling version of Asti; it is sweeter and contains even less alcohol, typically around 5.5%.