12 Most Fascinating Things About Sparkling Wines
More than any other time of year, the holiday season is the time for bubbly. Whether it’s called Champagne, Sparkling Wine, Cava, or Prosecco, bubbles are a fun, festive way to celebrate the holidays! But I like to drink sparkling wine all-year round, with all kinds of food, special occasion or not!
1. Only Champagne is real champagne
Only sparkling wine produced in specific Champagne regions of France, for example, Reims and Épernay, produced by the traditional method using only Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier grapes can be labeled as Champagne.
2. Still wine transformed, or the reason for the bubbles #1
Sparkling wines are created by one of over a half-dozen methods, from simple carbonation injection to the elaborate, high-quality méthode champenoise, now often referred to as the traditional method. Regardless of method, there are two phases. First the still base wine is produced, and then the still wine is transformed to sparkling wine through a secondary fermentation. There may be as many as 70 different base wines that compose a blend before secondary fermentation. The secondary fermentation creates carbon dioxide (CO2) at high pressure, which expands upon opening of the bottle, creating bubbles. And like still wines it’s made from a variety of grapes in a wide variety of styles all around the world.
3. The reason for bubbles #2
The bubbles one sees in a glass of sparkling wine are created by small defects in the glass that trap tiny vibrating pockets of carbon dioxide (CO2). The strings of bubbles start out in pairs, then transition to groups of three before settling down into a clockwork pattern of regularly spaced individual bubbles.
4. The method used to produce sparkling wines matters
Sparkling wine produced using the traditional method whereby secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle produces smaller bubbles than sparkling wines produced using other methods. On the other hand sparkling wines produced using other methods tend to be fruitier.
5. Why smaller is better
The smaller the bubbles in a sparkling wine, the better. That’s because as the bubbles start their celebrated ascent, they pick up flavor and aroma molecules along the way taking them for the ride until they literally explode at the surface creating the sensory fireworks that are generally associated with an aromatic, and good tasting sparkling wine.
6. The answer to at least one sparkling wine trivia question
It’s been estimated there are up to 49 million bubbles in a bottle of sparkling wine.
7. The top sparkling wine producing countries
Of the approximately 2 billion bottles of sparkling wine produced annually, 500 million are from France, followed by Germany at 430 million, Spain at 230 million, Italy at 200 million, with the US and Russia tied for fifth at 150 million bottles each.
The longest recorded sparkling wine cork flight was 177 feet and 9 inches, four feet from level ground at Woodbury Vineyards in New York.
9. The French did not invent champagne
As legend would have it, Dom Perignon invented champagne, and proclaimed “Come quickly, I’m tasting stars!” In fact, it was by accident that what we now call champagne was invented in the Rhone region of France in 1531. Frigid weather conditions prevented the wine from fully fermenting during winter, but as the weather got warmer a secondary fermentation took place after the bottles had already been corked thereby inadvertently creating bubbles in the wine. At the time the bubbles were considered a flaw. An Englishmen was the first to see bubbles as a desirable trait in wine, and create a repeatable process.
10. Not all grapes are created equal
Studies have shown that Pinot Noir produces the best foam characteristics, with Chardonnay being second.
11. The Swiss Army knife of wines
Sparkling wines are very versatile and food friendly. They can be served throughout the day, and throughout a meal too. The driest ones are excellent as an aperitif and with shellfish and caviar. Semi-dry bubbly is suitable for brunch, lunch, salads, and many dinner entrees. The sweeter ones pair nicely with fruit based desserts.
12. Under pressure
The pressure in a bottle of sparkling wine varies by type, but a typical bottle of sparkling wine is about 90 pounds per square inch. That’s about three time the amount of pressure in an automobile tire.
There are many kinds and styles of sparkling wines, and they are produced world wide. Sure New Year’s Eve is around the corner, but don’t limit your consumption of sparkling wines to NYE , and special occasions. It can not only transform a mundane day to a festive one, it is easily one of the most food friendly wines. It deserves to be consumed year-round. I feel a sparkling wine resolution coming on!
Featured image courtesy of zpeckler