Vines & Wines: Sparkling Wines

The words “sparkling wine” bring joy to our palates the moment they are spoken. Whether it is a Prosecco, Cava or the bottle of Champagne you have been saving for a special occasion, as soon as you pop the cork it’s a celebration. As the Holidays approach, we will take a moment to celebrate the world of sparkling wine and discover why it is the most special beverage of all.

In 1531 the Benedictine Monks of the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire in the Southern foothills of Limoux created Blanquette de Limoux, France’s very first sparkling wine. Blanquette is softer than Champagne with a lighter sparkle and slightly sweeter flavor. There are two reasons for this; the way in which it is produced and the grape varieties used. It is made by Methode Ancestrale, in which the wine is not disgorged (removal of the spent yeast) and the grape varities are at least 90% Mauzac with an addition of Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. Blanquette de Limoux has fresh flavors of quince, apple and ripe honeydew melon.

Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right…

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hampagne was first served by King Henri IV in the 16th Century. The first Champagne house to start making Champange was Ruinart in champagne-department-map1729. Champagne is very rich and yeasty; this is due to the style in which it is made and the grape varieties used. Champagne is produced by the Methode Traditionelle. This is the style by which the champagne gets its bubbly personality because it goes through secondary fermentation in the bottle. Champagne is a blend of three grapes; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. These grapes, when added in varying amount, can change the flavor profile, color and style of the champagne. Brut Champagne is the most popular and driest style. Brut Champagne can be white or pink and can consist of either 100% Chardonnay or all three grapes, and can be from a single vintage or a blended (non vintage) vintage.

Prosecco comes from Veneto in northwest Italy, where it has a long and varied history starting in the late 1700’s (1772 was the first time Prosecco is documented). Glera or Prosecco is the name of the grape and the style of the wine. It is made in the Charmat method which allows the sparkle to happen in tanks rather than in the bottle. This creates a very fresh style of sparkling wine which is soft and dry. The hilly zone between the communes of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene represents the historical heartland of Prosecco production; in accordance with the area’s new recognition as DOCG, the producers’ consorzio ambitiously aims for the development of crus in the region. The most noteworthy cru is Cartizze, comprising a mere 106 of the DOCG’s total 4,300 hectares. Wines from the subzone, labeled Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze, are fully sparkling in style and are generally “dry,” with 17-35 grams per liter of residual sugar.

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Cava is the sparkling wine of Spain. Its history goes back many centuries, to 1872 in the town of Sant Sadorni d’Anoia. Cava is made in the traditional method using the grape varieties of Macabeo, Xarello, Parellada and Chardonnay. The flavors range from light and fruity to rich and almost earthy. The wines can be bone dry or sweet, white or Rosé.

Whether it is Champagne from France, Prosecco from Italy or something you’ve never heard of before, a great sparkling wine can cheer up any day and make any occasion special. Happy Drinking!