The ultimate Drizly guide to champagne and sparkling wine
March 27, 2021
Champagne and sparkling wine are always great, but they're somehow extra tasty around the holidays. But what kind of champagne or sparkling wine should you get? What's the difference between the two? How do you talk about or serve it? CALM DOWN WE HAVE ANSWERS.
How do you shop for sparkling wine?
First things first, all sparkling wines should have a well-rounded flavor. This means you should be able to taste things beyond the bubbliness. The complexity and richness of flavor will obviously depend on the quality of wine but we'll tell you right now, don't sacrifice flavor for price. There are bottles of sparkling wine available for less than $10 that still taste great.
What are the major types of sparkling wine?
Champagne: The “real deal" Champagne with the capital “C" is a name strictly reserved for sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France, east of Paris. It must be made in the “methode traditionelle" (traditional method) that requires hand harvesting and a second fermentation in the bottle. If you're more of a champagne in a cocktail than a champagne in a flute glass kind of person, here are some champagne recipes.SHOP CHAMPAGNE
American sparkling wines
Produced in vineyards throughout America, using both the Charmat and traditional method for sparkling wine making. Many of the big French Champagne houses own and operate vineyards in the U.S. (Louis Roederer, Moët&Chandon, Mumm, etc.) American sparkling wines are either made in methode traditionelle, which we talked about earlier, or Charmat which is made from a tank fermentation.SHOP AMERICAN SPARKLING WINE
Named after the Cava region of Spain. Most cava is prepared in the traditional method. It's one of our favorite types of sparkling wine for brunch cocktails or entertaining and the price is very affordable.SHOP CAVA
The most popular Italian sparkling wine, hailing from the Northeast region of the country, made using the Charmat method. (It's similar to the Champagne method, except part of the process takes place in a large stainless steel vat rather than fermenting directly in the bottles.) Many people would say prosecco has a sweeter flavor with more citrus than other sparkling wines. (If you're looking to branch out, Italy has at least five major types to try - one being a sparkling red wine, each named after their specific region and wine making method.)SHOP PROSECCO
What are the flavors of sparkling wine?
These words are marked on the bottle and will determine the type of sparkling wine the maker is producing. Each type has a different taste so pay attention to the bottle when you find something you like and remember the designation for next time. Anyway, here are your main contenders (referred to as dosages, which refers to the sweetness level):
Brut: Most common, bone-dry to almost-dry in flavor. (Less than 1.5% sugar) Extra-dry/extra-sec: Also known as extra-brut, this is slightly sweeter than Brut. (1.2-2% sugar) Sec: Medium sweetness (1.7-3.5% sugar) Demi-sec: Typically considered a dessert wine for its sweetness. (3.3 to 5% sugar) Doux: Very sweet, also considered a dessert wine. (+5% sugar)
What is the terminology around sparkling wine?
Refer to wine made from a single year's harvest. They are always dated and the year is marked on the bottle. Winemakers don't necessarily release a vintage every year. These sparkling wines and Champagnes are pretty much guaranteed to be more expensive than non-vintage.
Non-vintage wines refer to, you guessed it,
Frank Stallone wines that come from multiple harvests. They should always be consistent in flavor as the winemakers have a specific flavor profile they look to match with all non-vintage bottles. (Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label is a prime example of a popular NV bottle.)
Translates to “the contents of the vat." Doesn’t sound as appealing when you put it that way, but these wines are a special blend of batches, like the best pressed juice from a specific harvest, for example. Cuvée will always be more expensive than the typical non vintage bottles.
These pink sparkling wines typically have notes of cherry and strawberry, but are not sweet in flavor. They have become increasingly popular recently as a brunch drink or aperitif.
Blanc de blancs
Translates to “white of whites" and means that this sparkling wine is made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes. These sparklers have light, clean flavors and pair very well with food.
Blanc de noirs
Translates to “white of blacks" and means that this sparkling wine is made from only pinot noir grapes, pinot meunier grapes, or both. This wine has a richer flavor that a blanc de blancs with notes of red berries and vanilla typically present.
What are some serving tips?
A well-chilled bottle will have the perfect amount of crispness when you pour it and as the wine warms up in your glass the flavors will open up as well. Read: Don't serve room temperature sparkling wine...ever.
As a rule of thumb, you want to serve sparkling wine around 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Very similar to how chilled you'd serve a light bodied white wine. We won’t get into all the mumbo jumbo about it, but trust us. If you're interested in said mumbo jumbo, we've got an article for that.
To open the bottle, twist off the wire basket cap and hold your hand over the cork (unless you want some theatrics, in which case, let that cork loose.) Gently twist the cork back and forth to ease it out slowly. If you're in a safe space, where you won't shoot it into someone's face or shoot a hole in the ceiling, and don't care about potentially spilling a little bit of bubbly, go for the dramatic way to open the bottle and pop the cork off into the air. Pairs best with boomerangs.
Champagne flutes were created for a reason. Their tall, narrow shape helps to channel the bubbles of champagne over your palate for maximum flavor and texture. Tilt the glass towards you as fill it and gently pour the wine down the side of the flute. Allow the bubbles to settle before filling so it doesn't overflow.
How do I store sparkling wine?
If you're not going to drink it right away, sparkling wine should be stored in a cool, dark, and humid place. The ideal temperature is below 55 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity around 60- 70%. Most wine experts don't suggest keeping a bottle of sparkling wine for more than 10 years since storing it in the ideal conditions can be difficult. But if that’s something you’ve done, congrats on the willpower.