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5 things you need to know about sparkling wine

November 9, 2019

Frank and Bing knew a thing or two about a good bottle of Champagne.
Frank and Bing knew a thing or two about a good bottle of Champagne.

By Erin Henderson

Most wine lovers know that bubbly coming from the region of Northern France known as Champagne is the only sparkler that can be called “Champagne.” That’s a great place to start, but there is so much more to know. Alas, we can't cover it all here, but we can address five of the most commonly discussed topics at our Wine School and on our Toronto restaurant wine tours.

It's all about the Traditional Method (to a point)

Even though true champers must come from its birthplace, the way it’s made is replicated (legally!) around the world. This is called the traditional method. Winemakers leverage this process to get bubbles into their wine. It's usually an indication of a superior sparkler. Cava from Spain and Crémant sparklers from France are also made this way.

Try: 13th Street Premier Cuvée Méthode Traditionnelle Sparkling, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario $39.95 Vintages #142679

Why the Traditional Method is so cool

This method is hundreds of years old and involves taking still (non-bubbly) wine, bottling it and adding yeast and sugar. Bakers out there will know yeast loves to eat sugar, emitting the carbon dioxide that makes wine bubbly. The leftover yeast is removed in a fancy process called disgorgement and the bottle is resealed with a cork and wire cage.

Try: Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut Champagne, France $74.95 LCBO #155341

Champagne grapes can be red or white

Champagne laws are strict and include mandating the grapes used. For the most part, three main grapes are allowed, either solo or as a blend: Chardonnay (white), Pinot Noir (red) and Pinot Meunier (also red).

Try: Tarlant Brut Reserve Champagne, France $44.95 LCBO #325167

There's another way to get the bubbles in

Prosecco is not champagne. It comes from Northern Italy and is made predominantly with the native grape Glera. But the biggest difference is how Prosecco is made. This method is called Charmat. Still wine is placed in huge stainless steel tanks, yeast and sugar is added, and the tank is sealed up tight. After a few weeks, the bubbly wine is filtered and bottled under pressure to keep the fizz bright and fresh.

Try: Santa Margherita Brut Prosecco Superiore, Valdobbiadene, Veneto, Italy $19.95 Vintages #687582

How to figure out your bubbly style

Terms like Brut, Blanc de Blancs, and Blanc de Noirs let the consumer know what style of wine to expect. Brut simply means dry, and at least in Ontario it is the most common style. Blanc de Blancs literally translates to “white of whites” and means that Chardonnay is the grape. Blanc de Noirs means “white of blacks.” You get the picture: this means your bottle contains Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier, which are red or black-skinned grapes.

Try: Cave Spring Blanc de Blancs Brut Sparkling, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario $29.95 LCBO #213983

Want to know more?

Hopefully this quick sip on Champagne and sparkling wine shed some light on the fascinating world of fizz. Still thirsty for more? Join us for our Sparkling Wine Exploration class at Wine School on February 11, 2020.