20
Aug
18

READING A CHAMPAGNE OR SPARKLING WINE LABEL

Understanding wine with bubbles begins with comprehending its production method. The first step in sparkling wine begins with the creation of  base or still wine. The second step requires a second fermentation to create  those enticing bubble. The méthode champenoise (also known as méthode traditionelle or methodo classico depending on the wine’s country of origin) is the most common technique. It involves a second fermentation that takes place in individual bottles. Charmat, (autoclave or tank method) is a less expensive option where the second fermentation occurs in a large pressurized tank after which the wine is bottled .

Many countries produce sparkling wine with specific names. In Spain, it is called Cava. In Italy, its Prosecco. and German it is Sekt.

Two categories of sparkling wine are Vintage  and Non-vintage. A winemaker who wants to showcase the special characteristics of a single exceptional harvest sets it aside and labels it Vintage.  It is the only time a date appears on a bottle of bubbly.  Non-vintage sparkling wine is a blend of wines from multiple harvests. A winemaker holds back a certain amount of wine from previous years to produce a consistent style (often called the house style) without regard to a particular harvest.

Label terms indicate the composition of grapes used in a wine’s blend. In France, the U.S. and Australia. for example, a historic blend often consists of a combination of one white – chardonnay – and two reds – pinot noir, and another variety of pinot. But each winemaker can choose the varietals and amounts of each one, and every country can use its indigenous grapes.

Because there are several styles of sparkling wine depending on its sugar level, terms indicating sweetness are on the label. Blanc de Blancs are  made from white skinned grapes only. A Blanc de Noir is made from the white juice of red-skinned grapes. Rosé sparkling wine is produced by adding small amount of red wine before the second fermentation. Rosé saignee is a pink wine produced by allowing a small amount of color from red skins to bleed off into the juice during pressing instead of adding red wine later on.

Sweetness levels  for sparkling wine are determined by the amount of residual sugar in the Dosage, a small amount of sweetened liquid (sometimes brandy) added to wine at the end of production. Usually terms for sweetness are written in French, but may also appear in the language of the wine’s country of origin. Brut Nature, Brut Zero, and Brut None indicate the wines are are completely dry without any residual sugar. Extra Brut is very dry while Brut is dry. Dry or Secco are moderately sweet. Demi-sec is sweet and Doux is very sweet. Most commonly, sparkling wines are sold in the Brut or Demi-sec versions.

Sparkling wine is the most versatile choice as an aperitif or as a companion to a wide range of foods.

 

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