2021 Calls for Bubbles!
Dive into the World of Sparkling Wine
Host - Renée Sferrazza
Sommelier and Wine Professional
Association of Professional Sommeliers Board
As a Court of Master Sommeliers Certified Sommelier, CAPS Board member, wine educator, wine writer, importer and contracted peddler of fortified juice, exploring wine has become more than just a driving force in my life. I’m passionate about bringing a different side of wine to the table. A side that’s romantic, but not pretentious and above all, practical. Essentially, I’ve dedicated my life to grapes - welcome to The Wine Effect.
2020 is officially in the past, and I can’t be the only person that wants to revel in that statement. It feels like we can all take a collective sigh of relief, sit down and finally relax. 2021 feels celebratory, in a put on your finest lounge clothes and find your favourite spot on the couch kind of way – and what would a celebration be without a glass of bubbles!
Whether toasting this ‘new vintage’ or relaxing home, here is a quick and easy guide to sparkling wines. Going through the 3 main categories of sparkling wine, from Traditional Method to Charmat and even Pet-Nat sparklers can be enjoyed now or stored in the cellar. Including some of my favourite bottles of bubbly that can be bought from local wineries, bottle shops and the LCBO.
Traditional Method Sparkling Wine
All sparkling wines use the power of fermentation to capture bubbles in the bottle. Traditional method sparkling wines go through 2 fermentations. The first is to make the cuvée, the base wine, and the second happens in the bottle. The starting cuvée is bottled, then a tirage is added, a mixture of yeast and sugar that kicks off the bottle fermentation creating the bubbles. This wine style spends time ageing in bottle for months and sometimes years before it is disgorged, topped up with a dosage and closed with a mushroom cork. The final result is a wine that has been made under intense pressure, about 5-7 atmosphere to be exact. This creates a fine perlage and lasting bubbles that are often accompanied by bready notes formed during the in-bottle ageing.
Champagne, French Cremants, Blanquette de Limoux, German Sekt, Cap Classique from South Africa, Spanish Cava, Italy’s Franciacorta and wine with the words Traditional Method on the label are all made in this wine style.
Charmat Method Sparkling Wine
Charmat Method, AKA Tank Method, AKA Metodo Italiano, AKA that non-bready sparkling wine you love, is a typical style found around the world. If Metodo Italiano didn’t give it away, this wine style was invented in Italy in the 20th century. This process is used when making wines like Prosecco, Lambrusco, and types of sparkling Moscato from Asti. However, many wineries from America to Canada, Australia, and South America use this winemaking style to create sparkling wines.
Unlike the Traditional Method, the second fermentation to create the bubbles does not happen in the bottle. Charmat method sparklers have a base cuvée that is then transferred into a large tank for secondary fermentation. The wine is then filtered, topped up with a dosage, bottled and closed with a mushroom cork. The final result is a wine created under less pressure than a Traditional Method Sparkling wine, about 2-4 atmospheres, and this makes wine with more approachable bubbles in the glass. These wines show notes of cream, and lively fresh fruit, all flavours enhanced by the winemaking style.
Prosecco, Lambrusco, Moscato D’Asti, and many productions in New World wine regions use the Charmat Method to create sparkling wines, although you might not always see the words on the label.
Ancestral Method Sparkling Wine
You might already know Ancestral Method sparkling wines by their more common name Pet-Nats (short for Pétillant Naturel). This category of sparkling wine is considered to be the oldest style of sparkling wine ever made. Unlike Traditional or Charmat Method sparklers, these wines do not undergo a second fermentation to gain their bubbles. Using icy temperatures to pause fermentations mid-way through the process. The wines are then bottled and capped with a beer bottle like cap, and the fermentation starts again in the bottle creating the bubbles. Pet-Nat Sparklers can be made worldwide in red, white, rose, and even orange wine styles. These wines have a lower pressure in the bottle, 2-3 atmospheres, with a light fizz in the glass and can be found expressing a range of flavours from funky to fresh.
Jura, Loire, Spain, California, Ontario, Australia and New Zealand are top world regions to look for Ancestral Sparkling Wine productions. They are most commonly found made by natural wine producers and experimental winemakers.
Sparkling Wines to Try and Collect
Champagne is the most recognizable traditional method sparkler, but Champagne is to be born in Champagne. Made solely in this French wine region from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, these wines can be found in dry and sweet styles, as well as rosés. Keep an eye out for Grower Champagne. Unlike the larger Champagne Houses that make wine from grapes across the region, Grower Champagnes are made by smaller wineries from their own vineyards. Here are some of my favs to check out.
German Sekt is also made using the Traditional Method. However, this wine style has stayed under the radar for many years. Most common on the market is Henkell, although smaller brands like Krack Sekthaus and Reinhartshausen are making a splash. Keep an eye out for wines labelled with Deutscher Sekt or a higher quality level Winzerskt. These sparklers are often made in single varietal productions, with Riesling being the top contender, so if you see a 100% Riesling German Sekt, its best to give that wine a new home in your cellar!
Sparkling red, anyone? Lambrusco is the sparkling wine I most often recommend to solely red wine drinkers. This sparkling wine is named after its namesake red grape, Vitis Lambrusco and hails from the province of Emilia-Romagna in Italy. The wine style can be found in both dry and sweet styles. Lambrusco use to have a bad reputation as a cheap wine meant to be served over ice, but all that has changed! Current producers are making top quality Lambruscos that display notes of cherry, blackberry, violet, rhubarb and cream in the glass. Here are some of my favs to check out.
North American Pet-Nat
Pet-Nats have found a new home in American and Canada with unique and thought-provoking productions coming out of both California and Ontario. This sparkling wine style lends itself so easily to the wild-west wine production style that can be found in these two regions. This style shows a lot of youth and experimentation in the bottle with notes that are not often found in classic sparkling winemaking.
Most Pet-Nats are bottled unfiltered, so it is best to keep the bottle upright while cooling to let the bottled sediment gravitate to the bottom. Some of the producers doing amazing things with this wine style are J Brix and Birichino from California and Rosehall Run and Trail Estate from right here in Ontario.