From crowd pleasing Cava to the intricacies of Champagne, there’s a huge variety of sparkling wine available today. If you’re looking for a luxurious treat, a bottle to celebrate an important milestone, or you just want to add a sense of occasion to your Friday night takeaway, there’s a fizz for you!
Where else could we start, but with the grandaddy of Sparkling wine, Champagne. It may have become somewhat of a generic term, but the name can only be used if it’s produced in the Champagne region in France.
The majority of Champagne produced today is non vintage (NV), which means that the base wines come from a selection of years (mainly done as a way of insurance against the fickle Champenois climate).
Vintage champagne must come from grapes grown in a single year, and is only made when conditions have been particularly favourable. As well as being more complex and unique, it also undergoes longer aging for even more richness and yeasty flavours (think pastry, brioche or biscuit).
Because of this Vintage Champagne commands a premium and tends to be more expensive than the NV version. It’s also capable of ageing for many years, so makes a great gift for a landmark birthday.
Champagne is also surprisingly food friendly. Everyone knows about Champagne and oysters right? But did you know that it’s a great match for fried food as the acidity cuts through the oiliness perfectly. Why not try with fish and chips for an unforgettable Friday night treat.
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The south east of England is on the same chalk line as Champagne and so has the perfect soil for producing top quality fizz. Champagne houses have even been buying up land in an effort to capitalise on this.
Due to the cooler climate here, the wines tend to have more freshness and acidity compared to their French counterparts, but lack none of the character or complexity. The industry in the UK is growing all the time but is still relatively small scale, hence prices are higher than their European counterparts.
Other Traditional Method Sparkling Wines
Champagne quite rightly commands a premium, but what if you want a top quality sparkling wine, with richness and finesse, but without the hefty price tag? Well there are other options out there that are every bit as tasty.
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Crémant wines are made throughout France, for example Crémant de Loire, Crémant d’Alsace and Crémant de Bourgogne. These wines are generally made from local grapes and must be aged for at least a year. They share the same biscuity character, but are often not quite as rich as Champagne, making them a great option for parties and celebrations.
Looking outside of France, Spain has a rich heritage of making quality fizz. Cava may have been eclipsed by Prosecco in the UK market in recent years, but those in the know have stuck by Cava over the years.
The majority of Cava comes from the Penedes region in North West Spain. It’s traditionally a little lighter than Champagne, with less richness but lots of apple and citrus flavours. The best examples also have a touch of brioche character, just like Champagne.
Obviously, Cava is a great match for tapas dishes and a non vintage example is the perfect bottle to grab when you fancy a mid week treat without breaking the bank.
Prosecco has seen a meteoric rise in popularity in the UK in recent years, and is now the staple of every girls night out (or in!), not to mention an important component of many cocktails.
Unlike Champagne, Prosecco undergoes its second fermentation in a tank and with no ageing. This means that it’s a lot fresher, fruitier and lighter in style, and is often a touch sweeter than Champagne, making it ideal when you’re looking for an easy drinking glass of fizz. It’s a great aperitif due to it’s crisp acidity, while sweeter versions make a perfect match for spicy dishes.
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While English Sparkling wine and Prosecco might grab the headlines these days, there are some hidden gems in the world of fizz, and Sekt from Germany is certainly worth hunting out.
The basic level of Sekt is often made with grapes grown outside of Germany and uses a similar production method to Prosecco, resulting in a fresh and fruity style with a lower level of alcohol.
Deutscher Sekt is a higher level of quality and must be made with grapes grown in Germany. Some top producers use the traditional method of production, resulting in a richer, more complex style.
We’ve only covered the basics here, with so many styles available there really is a fizz for everyone. WInebuyers have a fantastic range of sparkling wine just waiting to be discovered, so why not try something new next time?