Whether you are ringing in the New Year or gathering the family together for a holiday, sparkling wine is a drink for all occasions. It is made all over the world and is known for its hoppy bubbles that dance at the top when you pour a glass.
Just in time for the holidays, we have put together a detailed guide to the most popular types of sparkling wine, the different glasses to serve them in, the levels of dryness they come in and the most appropriate times to gift them. From Prosecco to Sekta, to a chilled glass of rosé, we hope this guide will help you to understand the differences in these bottles of bubbly.
How Sparkling Wine is Made
In order to get those bubbles that we all know and love, sparkling wine has to be produced in a certain way. Every sparkling wine goes through two fermentation processes, but it is the second fermentation (the one that produces the bubbles), that differentiates them. There are six ways that sparkling wine can be produced, each method resulting in a different carbonation level. However, the two most popular sparkling wine production methods are the Traditional Method and Tank Method, each described below:
- Traditional (Classic) Method: What separates this method from the rest is that the second fermentation takes place in a bottle where sugars and yeasts are added. This method produces smaller bubbles and is used when making Champagne.
- Tank (Charmat) Method: What makes this method different from the others is that the second fermentation process takes place in a large steel tank. This process helps to create larger bubbles that can be found in sparkling wines like Prosecco.
Sparkling Wine Types
For many, the sparkling wine aisle can be confusing. To help you navigate the wine aisle and choose the perfect wine for your taste buds, we have outlined the six most popular types of sparkling wine including where they are from and the types of grapes they are made with.
Arguably the most popular type of sparkling wine, sparkling wine can only be considered Champagne if it comes from the region of Champagne, France. To clarify, all champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is champagne. Basically, all you need to know is that because Champagne is so versatile, it goes great with just about anything from breakfast dishes to fried foods. It has small bubbles that produce a fruity, but not always sweet taste on your buds; it’s great for all of life’s celebrations.
Prosecco gets its name from the village it originated in:Prosecco, Italy. It comes in other forms besides bubbly, but is most known for its sparkling variety. Prosecco is made from Glera grapes and tends to be on the sweeter side when it comes to taste. This particular sparking wine is made using the tank method, causing it to have larger bubbles and making it a popular addition to cocktails.
Cava is a sparkling wine that comes from a town in Spain called Catalonia. It is produced in the traditional method and is primarily made from the Spanish grape, Macabeo, which adds a fresh, lemony flavor to the taste. It can also be made with Xarello and Parellada grapes which have fruity undertones of pear and citrus. All have floral aromas and are a lot less sweet in taste than Prosecco.
Crémant is a sparkling wine that can be produced in several areas of France such as Limoux, Loire and Burgundy. This particular sparkling wine is created in the same traditional method as Champagne and has a flavor that can vary depending on the type of grape it is made with. However, most types have a creamy and nutty taste rather than sweet.
This particular sparkling wine is from Germany and is known to for its low sweetness and alcohol levels. It can have alcohol levels as low as 6% and contain fruity and floral aromas such as apples, pears and white flowers. This wine has a natural acidity and fruitiness that is growing popular in other regions aside from Germany. The Sekt wine is made using both the tank and traditional method depending on the type.
Rosé can be made still, but is a fan favorite in its sparkling, bubbly form. It is most known for its pink hues and fruity aroma. Some common flavors in rosé are strawberry, citrus, honeydew, rose petal and rhubarb. Sparkling Rosé can come from a variety of places from Italy all the way to California, but is most commonly produced in Provence, France.
Sparkling Wine Dryness Levels (grams per liter)
When buying sparkling wine, you may notice that the bottle comes labeled with a word like “brut,” “dry” or something of that nature. These words are referring to the dryness level of the particular bottle you are buying. This is measured by the amount of residual sugar in grams per liter of wine. Because the terminology can be a bit confusing, we have explained the four main levels of dryness for you below and what they pair best with.
Extra Brut (0-6 g/l)
Extra brut is the driest form of sparkling wine with zero to six grams per liter of residual sugar. This means that during the fermentation process the yeast has eaten most, if not all of the sugar. Cava is a popular type of wine that can come in this form. This sparkling wine variety pairs best with:
- French fries
Brut (0-12 g/l)
This is the most popular form of sparkling wine because it is dry with just a hint of sweetness; it has less than 12 grams per liter of residual sugar. Champagne is a sparkling wine that often comes in the brut variety. This type of sparkling wine goes best with:
- A cheese plate
- Mushroom risotto
Extra Dry (12-17 g/l)
While this bubbly drink is dry, it is not as dry as the two before it. It contains a slight sweetness left over from the fermentation process. When drinking this, do not expect a sugary sweet taste, but just hint of sweetness compared to the two above. Prosecco is a type of sparkling wine that is often extra dry and pairs best with appetizers like:
- A charcuterie plate
- Deviled eggs
Demi-Sec (32-50 g/l)
This is considered a sweet variety of wine that one would often drink with dessert. There is a noticeable amount of sweetness to the taste of this wine and it can have up to 50 grams per liter of residual sugar. Champagne can be made in this variety though it is not common. Demi-sec types of sparkling wine pair best with foods like:
- Dark chocolate
Types of Sparkling Wine Glasses
Because drinking champagne usually signifies a celebratory moment, you are going to want it in a glass that represents that special time. With the many different types of sparkling wine, it only makes sense that there be a few different glasses to choose from as well. Here are the four most popular types of sparkling wine glasses:
- Flute: The flute is the most popular type of glass for sparkling wine. It has an elongated shape with a tall, thin stem that makes it easy to hold when cheersing or doing a toast.
- Tulip: The tulip-shaped wine glass is similar to the flute with a long stem, but has a more narrow top and wider bow. This shape is meant to trap the aromas of the sparkling wine inside, giving you a better overall flavor and taste.
- Stemless: This a more unique style of champagne glass that has no stem at all. This shape was designed to maximize taste and be harder to knock over.
- Coup: The coup is a more traditional style of a wine glass. It has a short stem and wide bowl that does not hold as much bubbly as the others, but looks very sophisticated and elegant when you hold it.
Sparkling Wine Gift Guide
Sparkling wines are the best for any type of occasion. Not only are they a crowd pleaser when it’s time to pop the cork, but they taste just as good on their own as they do with food. Not to mention they work well in a variety of cocktails. They’re a popular gift to give when attending a celebration. So, to help you choose the right wine to gift at your next celebration, we have listed out a few different celebrations and what would go best with each.
Casual parties can go one of two ways. They can be mellow and relaxed, having you in bed by ten, or you can be out until midnight enjoying your time with friends. That is why we recommend gifting Prosecco for this type of occasion. Its versatility gives you the option to sip from a glass or drink straight from the bottle.
No matter what holiday you are celebrating, these types of celebrations are always full of cheer, laughter and lots of booze. Because these gatherings tend to be a little more special and planned out than casual parties, we recommend gifting Crémant. Its creamy, nutty taste goes well with holiday meals and desserts.
Of course, this particular type of gift can vary depending on your friend’s preference in sparkling wine. However, if you aren’t sure what they like or if you want your gift to be a surprise, Rosé is the way to go. It’s yummy, classy and is a lot more fun to look at than regular champagne.
Graduation is a monumental milestone in someone’s life and should be celebrated accordingly. Assuming the graduate you are celebrating is of age, we recommend giving the gift of Cava. Not only is this a fan favorite, but it lets them know that you are proud of their accomplishments without breaking the bank.
Someone’s wedding is arguably one of the most important days of their life, and your gift should reflect that. Depending on your price limit and relationship to the bride and groom, we recommend gifting a nice bottle of Champagne. It should be something they can enjoy on their honeymoon and toast to their new life together.
Anniversaries are a time for two people to celebrate their love and time spent together so far. Sekt is the perfect gift for this occasion. It has lovely fruity and floral aromas and has a low alcohol content, so they can enjoy the whole bottle together in one sitting.
Most Popular Types of Sparkling Wine: Visual Guide