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Know Your Fizz

Don’t know your cava from your crémant? Read on to get acquainted with the alternative top sparkling wines from around the world…

Whilst living the #champagnelife may be something we all aspire to, in reality we’re unlikely to have the cash for a bottle of Dom Pérignon on a Tuesday night... or any night for that matter. However, there are many delicious alternatives that are actually affordable and will set you back  half the price, making that bottle of fizz something you can happily enjoy all week long.

Before launching into the list – here’s a quick couple of things to familiarise yourself with…

A GUIDE TO SECONDARY FERMENTATION METHODS (WHEN THE WINE GETS ITS FIZZ):

Methode Traditionelle or Metodo Classico
– this is the same method as Champagne where the second fermentation takes place in the bottle, it is commonly considered to be the highest quality technique and wines in this style very much resemble traditional Champagne.
Tank Method or Charmat Method – with these wines the second fermentation process takes place in a large steel tank. This process is more cost effective and creates larger bubbles that can be found in sparkling wines like Prosecco, giving a different mouthfeel to the fizz.
Pétillant Naturel, often shortened to Pet Nat – a term increasingly associated with natural wines and becoming more widely available in London bars. With this method there is no secondary fermentation - the wine is bottled just as fermentation takes place, trapping CO2 in the bottle and turning the grape juice into lightly sparkling wine. These wines tend to have a fine texture with a much more delicate froth, so the grape flavour comes across more intensely.

A GUIDE TO RESIDUAL SUGAR LEVELS (HOW SWEET THE WINE IS):

From very dry to super sweet
Brut nature: (no added sugar) up to 3 grams per ltr
Extra brut: up to 6 g/l
Brut: up to 15 g/l
Extra dry, Extra sec, Extra seco: 12 – 20 g/l
Dry, Sec, Seco: 17 – 35 g/l
Demi-sec, Semi-seco: 33 – 50 g/l
Doux, Sweet, Dulce: more than 50 g/l

8 SPARKLING WINES YOU OUGHT TO KNOW:

FRANCE

Crémant

French sparkling wines grown outside of the region of Champagne produced with the same winemaking method are typically labelled crémant. There are over 20 different regions that produce crémant, the most notable being areas such as Limoux, Loire, Alsace and Burgundy. The flavour will vary depending on the type of grapes used so this will change from region to region, but the quality is generally great and they offer a really affordable alternative. As a rule you’ll find flavour profiles of apples and pears from Loire (chenin blanc), berries, lemons and honey from Alsace (pinot gris, pinot blanc, riesling and chardonnay) and a creamier nutty taste from Burgundy or Jura owing to a high percentage of chardonnay (the main grape used in Champagne)

SPAIN

Cava

Coming from Catalonia in Northern Spain, the local grapes of Macabeo, Paralleda and Xarello are blended together using the same traditional method once again. The result is a dry, elegant and fruity sparkling wine that is very underrated. Cava has several tiers of aging classification so if you upgrade from the standard Cava Brut on the supermarket shelf then you can find a bargain wine of great quality. The longer the Cava ages, the more toasty and nutty aromas you’ll find in the wine so opt for a Reserva - 15 months aging - or a Gran Reserva - vintage dated, and available as Brut Nature, Extra Brut, or Brut only, similar to vintage Champagne – and you’ll be in for a treat.

GERMANY & AUSTRIA

Sekt

Predominantly hailing from Germany, but also occasionally Austria, sekt is fuity and floral with flavours of apples, pears and white flowers and can be made using both the tank and traditional method depending on the type.
Sekt is widely known for its sweetness and low alcohol levels (as low as 6%), but this certainly isn’t always the case. Outstanding examples of sekt are made using the same grapes and method of Champagne, while around 50% of production is riesling sekt – completely unique to this part of the world and a refreshing easy drinking fizz for an aperitif.

ITALY
Quick note: DOC and DOCG status certifies that a wine comes from a specific place, is made in a specific way, and uses Italy’s classic grapes. Of the Italian wine classification tiers, DOCG is the highest.

Prosecco
Produced in the Veneto region of north east Italy, a little inland of Venice, since 2009 the Prosecco region has held a DOC – enabling it to control the designation of origin and for top producers to indicate a level of quality.
It is also the former name of the main grape used (a minimum make up of 85%), which since the regional classification has now been renamed as Glera.  Glera produces wines with a floral-fruity character, most commonly aromas of apple and pear. Most Prosecco wines do taste slightly sweet and are meant to be enjoyed young and fresh. Owing to the tank method fermentation they have bubbles that are light, frothy and spritzy. This efficient product method means the wine is less expensive to make – and less expensive to purchase.
To meet increasingly high demands there are of course quite a few poor wines out there in this category, however if you look out for the DOC, or even better the superior DOCG, then you shouldn’t be disappointed.

Franciacorta
The glorious export of Lombardy in northern Italy, Franciacorta is made with chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot bianco (2 out of 3 of the Champagne grapes) and produced using the traditional method – it is far and wide known as Italy’s number one sparkling. Delicious flavours of brioche and lemon zest with fine creamy bubbles, they can sometimes be a little richer than champagne owing to the warmer climate, they are also markedly cheaper so stock up if you can.

Lambrusco
Lambrusco is both a red wine grape and a region within Emilia-Romagna. It has held a bad rep for its poor quality sweet wines of yesteryear but nowadays producers are making deep red deliciously dry Lambrusco wines with fresh yeasty flavours and a slightly bitter finish. It’s made using the tank method and should be drunk young.

Asti Spumante / Moscato d’Asti
Asti Spumante is the more sparkling version of Moscato d’Asti, which is the lightly bubbly version. Both are made with moscato grapes therefore being the sweetest sparkling wines you can buy from Italy. Moscato d’Asti was classified a DOCG in 1993 so you can rely on super high-quality wines. Perfect for breakfast wine or quaffing back in the afternoon sunshine.

UNITED KINGDOM

English sparkling wine

With soil and weather conditions very similar to our pals in Champagne, it’s no surprise that with the right technique from some brilliant winemakers we are now putting out wines to rival theirs. We are generally using the same grapes and also the same traditional method so you can expect a similar taste – although it’s all the better knowing its homegrown.