If you’re one of those who stand in front of the rack of sparkling wines at the store and get lost between labels, get ready to understand a smidgen more before you invite them to the party. Especially this year, when the pandemic left us with a dramatic increase in all products, especially in wine, and even more so in imported ones.
Not all bubbles are Champagne, and luckily there are more options to fill the glass for less money.
Champagne is the region in France that gives its name to this coveted sparkling wine. It was here that the bubbly production system known as Méthode de Champenoise or Méthode Classique was created. It is made with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes, and thanks to a double fermentation process, the seductive bubbles are born. Only those produced in Champagne and following its strict regulations can be called.
Crémants are produced in specific regions, including Loire, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace, and the grapes vary according to the restrictions of each region. For example, the Chenin Blanc grape dominates in Crémant de Loire. In the rest of France, Sparkling Wines and Cremánt are produced. They are, in general, more delicate, and for the price of one Champagne, you buy several bottles of Cremant.
Suppose you see a bottle of sparkling wine from other places like California, Argentina, Chile, and it says Sparkling Wine or Metodo Clásico on the bottle. In that case, you know that it is made following the same method, but not necessarily with the same grapes. Still, Chandon began to be produced in Argentina in 1959, and today it has wineries in Brazil, the United States, Australia, China, and India. As a curious fact, you will be surprised to learn that Chandon is part of the Moet & Chandon group.
In Spain, sparkling wines and the protected Cava are produced. This is made in a specific area, with the Classic Method, but with local grapes: Macabeo, Xarello, and Parellada. There is a reason why its aroma and taste are different, creamier, and less complex than Champagne. Keep in mind that for the price of one Champagne, you can buy 2, 3, or more Cavas. A Cava Reserva or Gran Reserva will take you to that experience without missing the Champagne if you like complexity in bubbles.
Prosecco is light, fruity, and aromatic. It is protected in northern Italy. It is made with the so-called Charmat or Tank Method, and the grape used is Glera. Inexpensive, but beware of the very cheap ones. The label confesses the quality. I like those from the Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene area. Even buying the best Prosecco, you save half the budget of an economic Champagne.
Franciacorta is the “Italian Champagne.” It is a protected region in Lombardy, northern Italy, and silk in the mouth. They are not as well known on this side of the world, but I always have a bottle in my house at the end of the year.
Sekt has been around since the 1800s, but it is only now that it is invited to parties. It is produced in Germany using the Prosecco tank method but with local grapes. My mother loves it when I show up with a Sekt made from Riesling grapes. Try it if you are a fan of this varietal.
As one of my master sommeliers used to say, “wine is like a woman. There will always be a man who loves her. It all depends on one’s taste”. But I would say that in this case, the pocketbook also applies. Celebrate with them cold, in moderation and keep in mind that the cheapest ones come with a headache included. Enjoy them without consequences.
Happy New Year!