From Rose to Moscato, Prosecco, and Chardonnay you can't go wrong with any option--though a sommelier may disagree. However, the fan-favorite seems to come from the pop of a bottle and the fountain spritz that sparkling wine provides-especially as part of Valentine’s day promotion ideas for restaurants. You don't need to take sommelier classes to know how fun that is.
However, many find themselves struggling to choose the perfect bottle between all the potential wine sales. Should you choose the classic champagne or choose something a bit more extravagant? What’s the difference between regular wine and sparkling wine anyways?
How do you choose the “right” wine for your special occasion? We understand your unique struggle, and we’re here to provide you with a bit of help to lead you in the right direction.
Sparkling Wine History
Did you know that back in the 1500s winemakers intentionally avoided making wine that created bubbles? Back then monks and priests viewed wine as a classic and professional drink, so wine showers just didn't fit the image of the times.
It wasn’t until the late 17th century that French winemakers changed their methods in order to intentionally create bubbles in wine. By using cartoon dioxide and intense pressure, the CO2 gets absorbed and creates bubbles.
Sparkling wine can be produced via two methods: traditionally or through the Charmat method. Traditional methods include incorporating yeast and sugar to bottled wine during fermentation. From there, the yeast ferments (produces chemical changes in organic substances) the sugar into alcohol until it dries out, generating CO2 and bubbles.
The newer Charmat method didn’t come about until the late 20th century. With this method, the fermentation process occurs in a pressurized tank, as opposed to a bottle.
The Rise of Champagne
With the discovery of wine came the accidental discovery of sparkling champagne. This was as a result of the frigid cold temperatures during the wintertime. In the French region of Champagne, the cold temperatures caused the wine fermentation process to completely stop.
Cold climates essentially froze the yeast cells during winter, but in the spring the yeast would “unfreeze” releasing carbon dioxide from the wine bottles. During this process many of the wine bottles became weak and eventually busted; however, the remaining bottles contained what we now know as sparkling champagne.
Cherished By the Rich and Famous
Hugh Capet, King of France at the time, started serving this sparkling champagne at his palace. Years later, sparkling champagne would be served only to the rich and famous.
Over the years there has been some discrepancy about who actually invented champagne. It’s been said that Dom Perignon, a 17th-century monk, invented champagne; but several people have disputed these claims stating that an old Englishman already created the wine and Perignon was only responsible for trying to eliminate bubbles from wine.
We’ll leave the truth up to you to decide, but this doesn't mean that Perignon didn't have any notable discoveries. In 1668, he was credited with creating the second wine fermentation process and was the first to create white wine using blue grapes. More than this, Perignon founded various other techniques for sparkling wine that we know and love today.
Dom Perignon is also known for the famous quote “Come, for I am drinking stars!," his verbalized reaction after tasting the first-ever champagne. The champagne “Perignon” is also named after him. It’s a carefully crafted blend of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay–millions of bottles are produced each year, and most creations are vintage editions.
Five of the Best Sparkling Wines
There are thousands of wines out there that promise you a good time and a picture-worthy moment; however, most would agree that the most important factor when it comes to choosing wine is the taste.
With so many variations and flavors, you might feel overwhelmed by your selection of wines. So, we’ve compiled a list of our top 5 favorite wines encompassing different flavors and styles.
- Best Overall: Egly-Ouriet Brut (Tradition Grand Cru)
Egly-Ouriet Brut is a France derived champagne that has a total alcohol volume (ABV) of 12.5%. It features hints of black cherry, mint, and pastry dough. Overall, this wine is the most popular, and increasingly rare to find. With blends of classic pinot noir and chardonnay, Brut Tradition champagne is said to taste textured and offer very expressive flavors.
- Budget Friendly: Gruet Brut NV
Gruet Brut is a New Mexico originated sparkling wine with an overall alcohol volume of 12%. It’s flavored with hints of green apples, orange rings, and toast. Produced by the Gruet family of Albuquerque, New Mexico, this champagne pays homage to their roots with a lively flavor and lots of bubbles. It’s also a fan-favorite due to its budget-friendly price tag.
- Best Blanc Wine: Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs
Schramsberg originated in Napa California with an alcohol volume of 13% and hints of strawberry, brioche, and citrus. If you prefer a sweeter flavor as opposed to a bitter one, this should be your best friend; this wine is also produced at one of the oldest estates in California and is a popular addition to the ever-famous charcuterie boards.
- Best Sparkling Red: Lini ‘910’ Labrusca Lambrusco Rosso
The Lini red wine comes from Emilia-Romagna, Italy, has an alcohol volume of 11%, and features notes of red fruits, dark berries, and balsamic. This wine is best paired with Asian foods, pizza, and even barbeque dishes.
- Best Celebration Wine: Lanson Green Label Organic Brut
If a celebration is in your future, then this wine is the perfect party enhancer. Lanson Green Brut of Champagne, France has an alcohol volume of 12.5% and is said to taste of tart apples, lemon zest, and toasted bread. This wine is extremely acid-driven, so it has an excellent popping effect. More than this, it tastes good too. There’s nothing better than a wine that has a picture-worthy popping effect but tastes horrible.
Frequently Asked Questions About Sparkling Wine
Where Do I Store My Sparkling Wine?
Many people wonder “does wine go bad,” or “how do I store wine?” To answer both questions: sparkling wine is best kept at cool temperatures. It’s always recommended to store your wine in a dark and cool location with limited direct sunlight. Warm temperatures tend to mess with the carbonation and sometimes even cause the cork to pop. Additionally, for some specific wines it’s best to limit the amount of time they spend in the fridge before serving as the temperature can try it out.
How Long Does Sparkling Wine Last?
When looking to store your liquor and sparkling champagnes, remember to keep the bottle on its side–this will help keep the cork moist and maintain optimal flavor. Other sparkling wines prefer to be stored upright to keep the cork dry.
Once you open your wine you’ll have around 3-5 days before it becomes flat and less enjoyable. You can keep most of the carbonation intact by using a wine stopper or re-inserting the cork (if you can get it back in). For bars and restaurants, these rules are especially important, to avoid the 86 meaning taking effect on your sparkling wines.
Is Sparkling Wine Sweet?
A majority of sparkling wines do tend to exist on the sweeter side of the scale. This is because most sparkling wines are considered aperitifs, or “pre-dinner” drinks; while sweeter wines are considered “demi-secs,” meaning they have extra added sugar; although, wine is meant to be enjoyed how you see fit. These rules usually apply to certain parties where meals are served in specific orders.
Is Sparkling Wine Healthier Than Non-Sparkling Wine?
If you compare sparkling wine to white or red wine types, you may find that the calories tend to be lower. More than this, because of the carbonation, sparkling wines tend to fill you up faster, leaving you with less room to fit in other foods. However, just because a wine has fewer calories doesn't mean it’s necessarily healthier for you. Remember to look at the sugar content as well, as many low-calorie wines have high sugar contents.
Nothing Wrong with a Bit of Sparkle
Sparkling wine as we know it has always been one of the best additions to a party. More than that, most of them are strong and flavorful–so you might want to research the best hangover cure because you’ll be in for a long night. Pair a good bottle of wine with some drinking card games and we can see why the Italians have a glass of the good stuff with most meals.