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Guide: Different Types of Sparkling Wine

Guide: Different Types of Sparkling Wine

What’s in a name, really? Would a rose by any other name, in fact, smell as sweet? More importantly, would Champagne by any other name maintain its mystique? This is one of my favorite debates.

There are so many places around the world that make great sparkling wine that we shouldn’t hold ourselves to drinking only Champagne – but, still we must drink Champagne! Let’s explore wine with bubbles from a few different regions and how they compare.

Champagne, the OG

Often hailed as the gold standard, Champagne is actually not the original sparkling wine but it is the most recognized bubbly wine. Made in a wide array of styles from completely dry to quite sweet, this wine must come from the region of Champagne in northern France and follow a long list of rules: specific grapes, specific aging time, specific residual sugar, and so on. It is in fact this dedication to specifics and regulation which has made Champagne the international star it is.

To taste a classic rich, full bodied champagne completely made from Chardonnay, we recommend trying the NV Delamotte Blanc de Blanc from the grand cru village of Le Mesnil.

Cremant, the imitator

In the mood for the Champagne experience but on a light beer budget? Cremant is the way to go! This French wine is made in the same style as Champagne style but doesn’t come with the same winemaking limitations. Cremant is made in many different regions of France with grapes local to that region. For me, the best option is a Cremant de Bourgogne, or a Champagne-style sparkling wine from Burgundy, France. Burgundy shares the same grapes, a similar climate, and the same soil as the Champagne region, so it is the closest comparable wine in many ways.

Half Pinot Noir and half Chardonnay, the Le Domaine d'Édouard Crémant de Bourgogne Les Collines De Vaux is an excellent introduction to the category.

America, the beautiful

Forget what you think you know about American sparkling wine. Decades ago, several major Champagne houses invested in Carneros and Sonoma for the future. Today, great sparkling wine is made from Sonoma, California, all the way to Westport, Massachusetts. Those excellent, early-adopting California producers (Roederer Estate, Domaine Carneros, and others) are great, but if you want the real American experience, seek out a bottle of Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs. This beautiful bubbly has graced the table of state dinners at the White House since the Eisenhower administration. Riper and bolder than Champagne, American sparkling wine has arrived and worth a try.

For those of you closer to (my) home, make a venture out to Westport Rivers in southeastern Massachusetts to pick up a bottle of their flagship, Cuvée RJR. Made of estate-grown Chardonnay, this winery has been surprising new tasters for over thirty years.

England, the newcomer

You may see a trend here – follow the Champenois! Well, several Champagne houses (like Pommery and Taittinger) have opened up shop in southern England. Why? The chalk soils that have made Champagne famous actually run all the way up to England. With a warming Champagne region, ripeness levels are rising and those looking for a more traditional, lean, acid-driven sparkling wine may wish to look to Chapel Down out of Tenterden, UK. These wines are great to pair with a raw bar or as a perfect aperitif for your next cocktail party.

The world, the challenger

Here’s where we start to really have fun. Every country that makes wine also makes some sparkling wine. We picked out two that are really fun and special:

  1. First, a rosé from the little known region of Jura in southeastern France. Traditionally known for a very oxidatively aged style of wine called Vin Jaune, the region also puts out racy, floral, and pretty sparkling wines from local grapes Poulsard, Trousseau, and, local star, Savignin. Highly sought after by wine geeks, the old vine rosé sparkler by Domaine Rolet offers a creamy texture with lots of freshness and verve.

  2. Now, for a region where wine labels look like typographical errors, Austria. In Austria, the local sparkling is known as Sekt, made by a Sektkellerei. Not many of these bottlings make it across the Atlantic because the Austrians drink almost everything they make. Often made from a blend of Riesling and Grüner Veltliner, these traditionally dry wines are aged in the bottle often for an extended period of time to gain greater richness and complexity on the palate. After 60 months in the bottle, the 2013 Christian Madl ‘Von Weissen’ showcases how fragrant Riesling and Grüner can be while, at the same time, rich and mouth-filling. Robust fruit, white pepper, and a very dry finish make this a great pairing choice for your next roasted chicken!

There are so many sparkling wines around the world—this is just a toe dipped in the vast, bubbly wine lake. From Tasmania to Piedmont, the world has never been larger for these bubbly beverages. Keep an open mind, keep tasting, and your persistence will be rewarded. This is just the beginning.