Sparkling wine is a staple during the holidays… and for good reason! There’s something exciting and uplifting about popping open a bottle of bubbly and raising a glass. Whether you’re cheersing with friends, or sipping solo, here’s what you need to know about the most common types of sparkling wine for the holiday season.
The most iconic sparkling wine.
Oftentimes, people will generally lump all sparkling wine in as “Champagne”, however, in order for a wine to truly be called “Champagne”, it must come from the Champagne region of France. Champagne is always crafted from three grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier. It may be any combination, or a singular varietal of these three.
Champagne is always made using the “methode champenoise” (or “traditional method”), which has a very strict set of guidelines developed in France. It involves creating the effervescence (bubbles) in the bottle during the secondary fermentation. During the process, bottles must be rotated regularly; the method champenoise is very labor intensive but develops complex sparkling wines with soft bubbles.
Cava hails from Spain and is traditionally produced from varietals that are native to the country: Macabeu, Parellada, and Xarello grapes. Cava is also always produced using the “traditional method” — the same high-intensity process that Champagne is. It’s mainly produced in the Penedes region, which is on the eastern side of the country, near Barcelona.
Despite being made in the same high-quality and high-intensity method as Champagne, Cava is almost always less expensive. If you’re looking for bang for your buck, Cava is definitely the way to go! The terroir and the grape varietals also tend to lend a salinity to the wine, and it’s the first bubbly I ever fell in love with.
This is the first wine on the list not produced using the “traditional method” — instead it’s produced using the “tank method”. Unlike the ‘Traditional Fermentation’, whereby the second fermentation happens in bottle, in Tank Method it takes place in a large closed pressure tank. Tank Method sparkling wines also go through two fermentations, as the second fermentation is where the bubbles come from.
Prosecco is typically produced from the “Glera” grape varietal and is a super food-friendly wine– it goes great with antipasto, cured meats, almonds. It’s also a natural pairing with spicy Asian food.
California Sparkling Wine
Wineries in California have the flexibility to produce sparkling wine using any of the above methods, and therefore range in style, quality, and price point.The highest-quality bubbly from California will be made in the “traditional method” and labelled as such. Typically these wines are made from the same varietals as Champagne, although that is not always the case. California has a complete range of freedom to make bubbly from whatever varietals they desire.
Looking for more information on sparkling wine? Head to Wine with Paige for a complete roundup of bubbly types and bottles to sip this holiday season!