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The Complete Guide to Sparkling Wine

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What Is Sparkling Wine?

Sparkling wine contains carbon dioxide gas molecules that fuel the trademark bubbly or fizzy quality. Many countries around the world manufacture it using numerous production methods.

It's a versatile drink that's perfect for dinners and celebrations. Many people will admit that it's their favorite type of wine.

It can be challenging to choose the right bottle. Here's our complete guide to sparkling wine with all you need to know.

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The History of Sparkling Wine

In the Middle Ages, monks and priests viewed wine as a classic and professional drink. They avoided creating bubbly wine.

It wasn't until the late 17th century that French winemakers changed their methods to produce wine bubbles. They used cartoon dioxide and intense pressure to absorb the CO2 and create bubbles.

Traditional methods incorporate yeast and sugar into bottled wine during fermentation. From there, the yeast ferments the sugar into alcohol until it dries out, generating CO2 and bubbles.

The newer Charmat Method appeared in the late 20th century. The fermentation process occurs in a pressurized tank instead of a bottle.

The Rise of Champagne

With the discovery of wine came the accidental discovery of champagne.

In the French region of Champagne, cold temperatures brought the wine fermentation process to a stop.

Yeast cells would freeze in cold, winter temperatures then thaw in spring, releasing carbon dioxide from the wine bottles.

During this process, many wine bottles became weak and eventually shattered. However, the remaining bottles contained what we now know as champagne.

What Is the Difference Between Champagne and Sparkling Wine?

All champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is champagne. Historically, it's such a renowned type of wine that some people call any wine with bubbles "champagne."

Sparkling wine is only named "champagne" if it originates in the Champagne region of France. All sparkling wines made in this area face strict regulations.

Champagne produced there can only use chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier grapes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where do I store my sparkling wine?

We recommend storing your wine in a location that's cool with limited direct sunlight. Hence, the invention and popularity of wine cellars.

Warm temperatures tamper with the carbonation and sometimes even cause the cork to pop.

How long does sparkling wine last?

When storing your champagnes, remember to keep the bottle on its side to keep the cork moist and maintain premium flavor. Other sparkling wines should be stored upright to keep them dry.

Once you open your wine, you'll have around 3-5 days before it becomes flat and less enjoyable. Keep most of the carbonation intact with a wine stopper, or try re-inserting the cork.

What are 5 good 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 vital factor for choosing wine is taste.

With so many variations and flavors, you might feel overwhelmed by your selection of wines.

To help you, we've compiled a list of our top 5 favorite wines encompassing different styles and flavors:

Best Overall: Egly-Ouriet Brut (Tradition Grand Cru)

Egly-Ouriet Brut is French champagne with a total alcohol volume (ABV) of 12.5%. It features hints of black cherry, mint, and pastry dough.

Budget-Friendly: Gruet Brut NV

Gruet Brut originates in New Mexico and has an overall alcohol volume of 12%. It offers hints of green apples, orange rings, and toast. It's also a fan-favorite due to its budget-friendly price tag.

Best Blanc Wine: Schramsberg Blanc de Noir

Schramsberg originated in Napa, California, with an alcohol volume of 13%. It offers hints of strawberry, brioche, citrus, and a sweeter flavor instead of a bitter one.

Best Sparkling Red: Lini '910' Labrusca Lambrusco Rosso

Lini '910' Labrusca Lambrusco Rosso comes from Emilia-Romagna, Italy. Its alcohol volume is 11%, and it features notes of red fruits, dark berries, and balsamic.

Best Celebration Wine: Lanson Green Label Organic Brut

If a wedding or party is in your future, this wine is the perfect party enhancer. Lanson Green Brut of Champagne, France, has an alcohol volume of 12.5% and tastes like tart apples, lemon zest, and toasted bread. This wine is acid-driven with a powerful popping effect for dramatic flair.

What Is Cuvee Wine?

Cuvee is a term used for describing the type of "blend" a wine is. This term is French-derived and appeared during the first winemaking period.

Typically, if you see the term "Cuvee" on a wine bottle, it's usually an indication that the wine is of superior quality. However, since there is no legal definition for Cuvee, it's not always the case.

In many instances, Cuvee is also used to describe sparkling wines. When used in this way, Cuvee describes the juice extraction process. In this example, a Cuvee wine with bubbles would be pure in form, have a higher acidity, and have lower pH.

As a result, you end up with a more desirable wine that is sweeter than non-Cuvee sparkling wines. In addition to this, Cuvee also refers to wine that is "first cut" from the press.

The Cuvee definition is essentially a term that describes the quality and process of making the wine.

Types and Names of Sparkling Wine

The types differ in name and qualities in regions worldwide. There's Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain, California sparkling wines, and Sekt from Germany and Austria.

And lastly, there are sparkling wines from the Champagne region of France. Crémant is a style produced there using the second round of fermentation. This wine's bubbles are creamier and softer than other wines from the area.

The Traditional Method

The traditional method, or "méthode tradionnelle" in French, describes the labor-intensive process that makes the fine bubbles. Many of the best sparkling wines use this production method.

There are two rounds of fermentation- one in a barrel or tank and one in a bottle. The second fermentation in the bottle gives the wine its characteristic bubbles.

Worldwide producers use this traditional method to make wine with bubbles, but different varieties have distinct characteristics. Flavor, richness, and texture are qualities that help a good wine rise above its competition. Climate, soil, and other elements contribute to each location's unique brand.

Best Affordable Sparkling Wines

Here are a few of our choices for the best affordable sparkling wines (under $50):

1- La Marca Prosecco (Italy)

This award-winning prosecco from Italy's Veneto region provides a refreshing and fruity taste.

2- Gustave Lorentz Crémant D'Alsace (France)

It's a fine example of sparkling French wine outside the Champagne region of France. The Lorentz family has been sourcing grapes from their vineyard in Alsace since the 1800s.

3- Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad (Spain)

This is an example of cava, the Spanish category of sparkling wines. It has an aroma of apple, citrus, and tropical fruit.

4- Graham Beck Brut Methode Cap Classic (South Africa)

Served at Nelson Mandela's presidential inauguration, this South African brand is a national icon.

5- Hild Elbling Sekt Brut #52 N.V. (Germany)

One of Europe's oldest grapes, Elbling, is a cousin of the Riesling variety. These grapes are abundant in Germany's Upper Mosel region.

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How to Open a Champagne Bottle

There are occasions when you want to open a bottle to celebrate. It could be a wedding reception, ringing in the new year, or celebrating a promotion at work.

However, it's vital to follow a few steps to remove the cork safely and effectively.

Here's how to open a champagne bottle in 5 easy steps:

1- Make sure your bottle is chilled.

You want your bottle to be chilled, about 45 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, to lower the pressure inside the bottle. If it isn't cold enough, the cork will release from the bottle and become a dangerous projectile.

Fill up an ice bucket and add some water to it, then let your bottle soak for a while. It prepares your bottle for a safe opening by lowering the temperature inside.

Remember to dry your bottle to prevent it from slipping out of your hand.

2- Cut the foil below the tip of the bottle.

Many champagne bottles have a tab to help you open the bottle. However, it can fail to make its way around the bottle, leaving you feeling frustrated.

Cut the foil to create an even and clean line around the bottle. Once the foil is off, the cork and cage, or "muselet" in French, will be free.

3- Use a towel to cover the cage and cork, then twist it counterclockwise.

It's a good idea to cover the cage and cork with a towel if you're uncertain whether the bottle is cold enough to open. It adds a safety precaution when opening the bottle.

Hold the bottle away from you and others at a 45-degree angle, then twist the cage in a counterclockwise direction. Never point the bottle at anyone during the opening process.

Apply pressure to the cork and twist the bottle. Untwist the cage until it loosens around the entire bottle.

4- Begin to extract the cork from the bottle.

Keep applying pressure to the cork while twisting the bottle. Once the bottle starts becoming loose around it and can spin, ease it away from the bottle.

Continue doing this until the pressure inside the bottle pushes the cork out. Apply a bit of light pressure to prevent it from releasing too quickly and forcefully. The bottle's internal pressure forces it out, but you can control how it comes out.

Ease it out, and you should hear a gentle hissing sound instead of the well-known popping noise.

5- Wipe the tip of the bottle and serve it.

Once you remove the cork, clean the bottle's tip, serve it, and enjoy.

How to Open a Wine Bottle with a Plastic Top

Plastic corks, or synthetic corks, won't expand inside the bottle, so their bottom end gets coated with cork bits. It triggers a reaction to the gas inside the bottle and helps the cork's expansion to create a seal.

However, removing a plastic cork is similar to removing a traditional wooden one.

Here's how you remove a plastic cork from a bottle of prosecco, cava, sekt, or any other bubbly wine:

  • Ensure that you chill the bottle to about 45 degrees Fahrenheit and have a towel ready.
  • Stand the bottle on a table and remove the foil. Place one hand over the crown of the cage as a safety precaution.
  • Twist the key six times, which should release the cage. Remove and cover it with your towel.
  • Give others in the room an alert to stand back and hold the bottle at a 45-degree angle.
  • Twist the bottle (again, not the cork) slowly until the gasses begin to escape.
  • Listen for a hissing sound, and the cork should release into the towel.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you open a bottle of champagne that's hard to open?

If you encounter a cork that's difficult to remove, hold the bottle's neck under running warm water for 3-5 minutes. This added warmth should interact with the carbonation inside the top of the bottle to push the cork out.

Can you use a corkscrew to open a bottle of champagne?

Never use a corkscrew to open a bottle of champagne. It will become a larger and more dangerous projectile than the cork.

What is one of the most important rules when opening a bottle of champagne?

Ensure that you never point the top of the bottle in anyone's direction. Champagne bottles contain a high amount of pressure. It can make a cork dangerous in an incorrectly opened bottle.

It's also why champagne bottles use thicker glass than still wines.

What Is Sabrage? Best Champagne Sabers and Swords

What Is Sabrage?

Sabrage is the technique used for opening a champagne bottle during ceremonial events.

The wielder of the champagne saber, or champagne sword, slides it along the body seam of the bottle to the tip. It breaks the neck of the bottle, leaving it open and ready to pour.

Using one of the best champagne sabers and champagne swords helps you do it effectively.

Origins

The art of sabrage became popular in France during Napoleon's reign. After the French Revolution in the 1790s, his army used sabers to win many battles across Europe.

During victory celebrations, French soldiers would open champagne bottles with their weapons.

Napoleon may have encouraged this behavior. His famous quote: "I drink champagne to celebrate when I win, and I drink champagne when I lose, to console myself."

How to Saber a Champagne Bottle with a Champagne Saber

The wielder holds the champagne bottle at a 20-degree angle then casts the saber down on it. People with more experience in sabrage can accomplish this without losing much champagne.

However, it's a good idea to let some flow from the bottle to wash away shards of glass from the break.

Additionally, there should be a close inspection of the first glass for any remnants of the bottle.

If you're interested in trying sabrage, it's best to get training from an expert before trying it on your own.

Best Champagne Saber Overall

The California Champagne Saber Company Sabrage Sword Edition Rutherford is our pick for the best champagne saber.

It's crafted by skilled artisans with an acrylic, white marble handle. The saber weighs about 10 ounces and arrives in a pine crate for storage, display, and transportation.

Best Engraved Champagne Saber

The Fox Sciabola del Sommelier Engraved Champagne Saber comes from Maniago, a town in northeastern Italy. The region is famous for its array of blade and knife producers.

It makes the perfect gift for a birthday, wedding, or any celebration. It's handcrafted with a satin blade finish and comes with a presentation box and black lacquer stand.

Best Antique Champagne Saber

Our favorite antique champagne saber is the Mathusalem Sciabola del Sommelier. It's a beautiful example of old-world craftsmanship with an olive wood handle.

It also comes from Maniago and has a presentation box and display stand. This saber has a finger guard and a wide blade, providing safety and functionality.

Best Cheap Champagne Saber

If you're looking to save money without sacrificing style, consider the Resafy Champagne Saber.

This saber has a quality blade with a balance point- perfect for beginners. This feature makes it easier to wield and adds a nice safety aspect.

It's much more affordable than most other brands but still provides you with a classy look and a top-notch blade.

Choosing the Best Champagne Sabers and Champagne Swords

If you're interested in purchasing a champagne saber or sword, conduct some research to find one that provides quality and suits your budget.

You might be interested in decorating your bar or giving it to a sommelier. Either way, there are many styles and varieties.

You can use our list as a helpful starting point for your search.

Easy Prosecco Cocktails for Any Occasion

Prosecco is a refreshing drink when served on its own. But one of Italy's finest exports is also a key ingredient in many delicious cocktails.

You might invite a few friends over for drinks or just spend a quiet evening at home. Either way, there are plenty of occasions that are perfect for a prosecco cocktail.

Here's our list of 5 easy prosecco cocktails for any occasion:

1- Aperol Spritz

Italy's Aperol Spritz is one of the best prosecco cocktails for a warm, sunny afternoon.

The drink has a bright orange appearance and offers a citrus aroma. Its two main ingredients are Aperol and prosecco, making it an easy cocktail to concoct in a few minutes.

Enjoying an Aperol Spritz in the afternoon is a long-established tradition in Italy, and, luckily for us, it's easy enough to replicate anywhere.

Ingredients:

3 ounces prosecco, 2 ounces Aperol, 1-ounce club soda, orange slice garnish

Directions:

Add the prosecco, Aperol, and club soda to a wine glass with ice and stir. Garnish it with an orange slice.

2-Mimosa

The Prosecco Mimosa is a classic brunch cocktail that's easy to make. It's refreshing and only needs two ingredients- sparkling wine and orange juice.

In 1925, bartender Frank Meier of the Ritz Hotel Bar in Paris invented the drink. He later included it in his book "The Artistry of Mixing Drinks" in 1936.

Ingredients:

2 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice, chilled prosecco

Directions:

Pour the orange juice into a champagne flute, then top with prosecco.

3- Sgroppino

The Sgroppino is another export from Italy- a combination of prosecco, vodka, and sorbet. The drink originated in Venice and functions as a cocktail and a dessert.

Ingredients:

2 ounces prosecco (chilled), 0.5 ounces vodka, 1 scoop lemon sorbet

Directions:

Add the prosecco, vodka, and lemon sorbet into a bowl and stir until creamy and smooth. Pour into a white wine glass and serve.

4- Negroni Sbagliato

This punch is a great drink to make for your next party. It's also ideal as a single serving for a quiet, relaxing evening at home.

Ingredients:

750 (each) ml sweet vermouth, Campari, prosecco, 1 cup assorted fruit, grated cinnamon garnish, ice cubes

Directions:

Pour the sweet vermouth and Campari into a punch bowl and add ice cubes (the larger, the better). Add the fruit and top with prosecco. Stir gently and garnish with cinnamon.

5- Bellini

If you want to try something different than a Mimosa for brunch, switch it up by replacing orange juice with peach purée.

This drink originated in Harry's Bar in Venice, but it's also an easy prosecco cocktail to make at home.

Ingredients:

1.5 ounces fresh white peach purée, chilled prosecco, peach slice garnish

Directions:

Pour the peach purée into a champagne flute. Add the prosecco and garnish with the peach slice.

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Drinking Prosecco Is Always a Good Idea

It might be a snowy winter evening or a hot summer afternoon. In either case, there are easy prosecco cocktails on our list that can be ready in a few minutes.

After all, wouldn't you agree that drinking prosecco is always a good idea?