Simply put, a “sparkling” wine is a wine with bubbles.
However, “bubbles” just scratches the surface as the world of sparkling wines is large and diverse, with a dazzling array of wines produced all over the globe, each with their own unique personality. Sparkling wines range from very dry, to sweet and from a delicate fizziness to scintillating effervesce. While they are most commonly produced with white grapes, sparkling wines can be produced from red grapes, or a blend of the two. While many automatically think of France and Champagne when they hear the term, wonderful sparkling wines are produced in Spain and Italy, almost always at more attractive prices.
Sparkling wines can be made in two different ways, using the “traditional method,” often called the “Champagne method,” or in the “Charmat method.”
The traditional method involves still wines that undergo a second fermentation that takes place in the bottle. The second fermentation is induced by adding yeast to a blend of still wines. The process of fermentation produces carbon dioxide, but since the bottles are tightly sealed, the gas cannot escape and therefore dissolves into the wine, creating fine bubbles. Wines made in this method include French Champagne, Spanish Cava and Italian Franciacorta.
With the Charmat method, on the other hand, still wines undergo a second fermentation in large pressurized stainless steel tanks where they are injected with carbon dioxide, which gives the wines their bubbles. This method is quick and efficient, and is used in the production of sparkling wines like Italian sparklers Prosecco, Moscato d’Asti and Lambrusco.