The world of bubbly is big. From Prosecco to Franciacorta, Cava to Champagne, Sekt and Crémant, there are plenty of options for you from across the globe. This week, we speak to Eric, Ciara, Ben and Sophie from the team at Winebuyers about their best tips and advice on sparkling wine so that you can enjoy it at its best.
1- How to lower the price but not the quality (Eric)
Champagne is famous for its exceptional sparkling wine, for the taste but also the price. French law surrounding Champagne is about protecting “terroir” and traditions. Only sparkling wines produced in the Champagne region can hope to be labelled as such - providing they follow specific rules which pushes up prices. If you would like to keep the fine bubbles but lower the price tag, look at French Crémant wines. You can expect to find the quality of Champagne with a reduced price of around 50%. Crémant refers to a group of sparkling wines made using with the same technique as Champagne, but produced from outside the Champagne region (Bourgogne, Die, Alsace, Loire to name a few). Grapes must be harvested by hand and have a minimum of nine months lees aging.
2-Enjoy the bubbles without losing your waistline (Ciara)
Sparkling wines are festive and delicious but some of them are very high in sugar content. This is because a small amount of sugar is added during the last step of the winemaking process. You'll find sweetness levels indicated on your bottles of bubbly (in the name or as calories content on the label). This is how it works. So, for example, if a bottle contains around 24 grams of sugar per litre (g/L), a glass of 150 ml will contain around 25 calories but if it’s 3 g/L, then you’re talking 2,5 calories.
- Brut Nature = 0-3 g/L (no added sugar) = 0-2 cal per 150 ml serving
- Extra Brut = 0-6 g/L = 0-5 cal per 150 ml serving
- Brut = 0-12 g/L = 5-7 cal per 150 ml serving
- Extra Dry = 12-17 g/L = 7-10 cal per 150 ml serving
- Dry = 17-32 g/L = 10-20 cal per 150 ml serving
- Demi-Sec = 32-50 g/L = 20-30 cal per 150 ml serving
- Doux = over 50 g/L = 21-72 cal per 150 ml serving
Bearing this is mind will help you reducing your sugar consumption if you want or need to. As a general rule, the dryer the wine the lower the calories.
3-Why not try alternatives to Champagne? (Ben)
English sparkling wine has become a serious contender in recent years. With great efforts from winemakers and a bit of help from climate change, the English sparkling wine production has been forecast by experts to outperform Champagne by 2020. For fine quality you can usually expect prices from £20 to £40. The new Nyetimber 1086 is said to be the first true English rival to Champagne - produced only in exceptional years, from the best Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. This cuvée prestige has a price tag to match but we so think it’s worth it. Spain's answer to Champagne is Cava Gran Reserva, a premium sparkler using indigenous Spanish grapes (xarello, trepat…). The longer the wine stays on the lees, the better the texture and creaminess. So if creamy is what you fancy, search for Cava Reserva (15 months minimum) or Cava Gran Reserva (30 months minimum). Cava is 9 months. If you compare Cava Gran Reserva to vintage Champagne at a requirement of 36 months, it’s very close, and many producers will age theirs much longer than this.
4-Coupe, tulip or flute... which glass is best? (Sophie)
Sparkling wines are served in thin glasses such as tulips, wide tulips or flutes in order to preserve the bubbles. How does it work? A tall and narrow glass offers a smaller surface area, slowing down the loss of CO2. As a result, the bubbles last longer and stay cooler. As a rule, flutes and tulips are good; coupes just pretty. While flutes are better for dry and lean sparklers, it’s better to serve rich, aromatic or fruity ones in tulips as the rounder shape allows the aromas to build. Taittinger or Roederer are good examples of aromatic Champagne. Of course, the best way to develop your palate and find out which bubbles are really your favourite is to try (life is hard we know). Explore our fantastic collection of sparkling wines here.