During the holidays we search for the best bubbles that flood the Google search bar. Given the subjectivity of the best and the fact that the answer is ultimately in the area of personal preference, you can skip Alexei’s request for recommendations and do a comparative tasting instead.

Sparkling wine is not limited to champagne. It’s made all over the world. Local grapes are often used for blends or basic grape-based wines. B. Chenin Blanc in the Crémant du Val de Loire or Riesling in the Secte d’Allemagne. Climate, production method, style, aging and other variables are then combined to create the final wine.

Of course, champagne is still the most famous sparkling drink. The production method – méthode champenoise or traditional method – is imitated everywhere, from French Crémants and Italian Metodo Classicos to South African Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) bottles and Spanish Cavas.

In addition to the traditional method of production, producers may also use other techniques for the production of sparkling wine. The tank method, also known as the Charmat method, is the preferred method for the Italian favourites Prosecco and Moscato d’Asti.

With so many sparkling wines, it is both educational and delicious to enjoy a side-by-side tasting of different types of sparkling wines.

Organize your tasting in three main categories: Champagne against traditional Californian sparkling wine, German sparkling wine against Crémant de Loire and Prosecco against Moscato d’Asti and barrel-fermented Asti. Look at the aromas and flavours you like, but also take into account the sweetness of the wine, the alcohol, the sparkling texture and the mouth feel or weight.

Of course you have to bring a couple of bottles, so we’ve included some tips to watch out for. If you can’t find an exact match, ask your salesperson to recommend alternatives.

The winemaker checks his aging bottles JEFF PACHOUSE/AFP via Getty Images

Champagne vs. traditional method California sparkling wine

There are different ways to pour bubbles into a bottle of wine. The longest, most expensive and best known technique is the traditional method developed by Champagne to produce its emblematic sparkling wine.

In this method, the winemaker fills the bottle with a dry, still basic wine, adds yeast and sugar and closes it with a crown cap. When the yeast consumes sugar, carbon dioxide is released as a by-product, which ends up in the bottle and produces carbon dioxide.

Today, many winegrowers use the traditional method of producing sparkling wine and often age their wines for years on lees or dead yeast, as in Champagne. The traditional trio of Champagne grape varieties – Hardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – is also present in vineyards around the world dedicated to the production of sparkling wines, from Tasmania to California.

So how can you tell the difference between these wines if the technique and the grapes are similar? That’s where terroir comes in. Terroir is the climate, the topography and all factors of the natural environment and even, according to some, microbes.

The Champagne region lies to the east of Paris and stretches as far as the Belgian border. It has long been regarded as one of the northernmost borders of Europe for viable viticulture. This wisdom has changed with climate change, but the cooling of oceanic and continental influences continues to dominate.

The soil is characterized by a high lime content, which also influences the taste of the wines. The limestone soil is rich in calcium and would give the wine a calcareous, i.e. calcareous and mineral flavour. Imagine the white walls of the caves under the champagne houses – they are carved from the same chalk as the chalk in which the vines grow. The vineyards on the slope offer good drainage and exposure to the sun. The synergy of these elements gives the champagne its characteristic acidity, tension and earthy minerality.

Unlike California, the persistent sunshine and long hot summers affect the structure and taste of traditional sparkling wines. Even in the cooler regions such as the Anderson Valley, the Sonoma Coast and Carneros, where most of the state’s sparkling grapes are grown, the bottles are very different from those in Champagne. The wine is richer and wider in texture, with a more ripe and fruity note and less acidic than Champagne.

Champagne vs. Californian sparkling wine

Wine 1:Find a bottle of vintage or non-vintage champagne, depending on your budget.

Wine 2: Look for sparkling wines from Northern California appellations such as Anderson Valley or Sonoma.

Riesling Section c. Crémant de Loire, i.e..

The omnipresence of the classic trio of sparkling grapes overshadows the wide range of grapes used for regional expressions. Identifying the flavors and aromas of wines made from other grape varieties, such as Riesling and Chenin Blanc, will enable any wine lover to better understand the sparkling wines of the world.

Let’s start with Germany. Although the United States is the most important market for sparkling wines in terms of value, Germany leads the way in terms of consumption. Germany imports sparkling wines from its European neighbors – Cava, Prosecco and Champagne – but also has its own domestic market for sparkling wines.

For decades the sparkling wine had the bad reputation of being of poor quality, mass-produced, tank-fermented sparkling wine, but its quality has improved as more and more producers have turned to traditional viticulture. The cult is getting a lot of attention today.

Riesling is of course the obvious choice for a basic wine. It is the most cultivated grape variety in Germany and with its high natural acidity and tendency to produce light wines, it is ideally suited for the production of sparkling wines.

When tasting the sparkling wine, one immediately notices aromas that differ from those of the usual Chardonnay and Pinot Noir duo. The character of the Riesling’s aroma is expressed in notes of lemon, lime and orange peel, as well as apple, pear and the occasional candle wax or lanolin. Any autolytic biscuit and brioche notes are due to the long aging of the deposits. On the palate, the tense and pronounced acidity gives additional clues about the grape variety.

Chenin Blanc is another very sour grape that grows in splendid conditions. The Loire Valley is the spiritual cradle of Chenin, so it is logical that its inhabitants make a sparkling wine out of it.

Crémant is a category of sparkling wines produced using the same technique as champagne, but from outside the region. Crémant de Loire is the regional name for the sparkling wines of Anjou, Saumur and Touraine. Saumur producers have the advantage of historical production and underground maturing cellars. The rules of combustion determine the second fermentation in the bottle, although wines are generally cheaper than champagne.

Although a variety of grapes can be used, Chenin Blanc is usually the star of the show. How do you distinguish a Crème de la Loire from a Chenin during a blind tasting? Cretaceous minerality and creamy texture, certainly, but above all a hint of sweet quince and mid-segment fruit, surrounded by an astonishing acidity. Another gift: a nose of hazelnut honey, characteristic of Chenin, with the occasional scent of white flowers.

Riesling Section c. Crémant de Loire, i.e..

Wine 1:Look for a sparkling wine made using the traditional Riesling method, ideal in Germany, although there are quality options in the Finger Lakes region of New York.

Wine 2: Find the Crémant de Loire of Chenin Blanc.

 

Champagne in flutes Getty

Prosecco v Moscato d’Asti e Asti

Fresh, fruity, sparkling – the casual consumer can easily confuse Prosecco with Moscato d’Asti and Asti.

These wines are fermented in tanks, but with slight variations in the methods. Fermentation in the vats reduces the influence of yeast on the aroma and strengthens the primary fruit notes of the wine. However, there are many differences between wines in terms of origin, grapes, sweetness and alcohol content. Tasting them side by side emphasizes these nuances.

Prosecco is what you know of Northeast Italy, although the heart is a small region called Conegliano Valdobbiadene. La glera, the main grape used for the production of sparkling wine, must represent at least 85% of the total wine called Prosecco.

The hills of Prosecco DOC are characterized by warm, sunny days followed by lively evenings with a cool coastal influence. The Glera grown on these hills produces wines soaked with melons, peaches, pears and white flowers. Its moderately high acidity gives it the freshness needed for a sparkling wine. The results are generally light to average and range from 8.5% to 12.5%, depending on the style of the producer and the choice of dry matter.

Prosecco was usually sweeter, like Moscato d’Asti. However, the flavors have evolved to drier and more elegant styles, especially in the DOCGs (Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin) such as Conegliano Aldobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Rive and Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze.

Some producers use refermentation in the bottle, but for this comparison we will focus on the overlapping tank fermentation used in the production of most Prosecco DOC products.

In the vat method for the production of sparkling wine, the second fermentation takes place in a large vat after the addition of sugar and yeast. As soon as the desired alcoholic strength or atmospheric pressure (unit of pressure) is reached, fermentation is stopped by cooling the wine, followed by filtration and bottling under pressure. The resulting atmospheres range from curly or slightly sparkling at an air pressure of 1 to 2.5 bar to spumante or fully sparkling at 5 bar.

West of Prosecco, in the Italian region of Piedmont, lies the Moscato d’Asti and Asti DOCG. As with Prosecco, sales of Moscato exploded, prompting foreign producers to produce wines with a similar style and name with Muscat grapes.

However, the DOCG guarantees that Moscato d’Asti and Asti come from a specific place and are produced using a specific method from local Moscato Bianco grapes. In Asti wines, the first and only fermentation takes place in vats, which gives a spumante style – semi-sweet and with a higher alcohol content of about 9% vol. For the Moscato d’Asti the style is young, fruity and curly, with about 5% abv.

In a blind tasting, Moscato d’Asti is easier to identify than Prosecco, apart from its sweetness and low alcohol content, if you sniff its characteristic aromas. Apricot, peach, mandarin, rose, orange blossom and a distinct character of grey glass infusion.

Prosecco versus Moscato d’Asti and Asti.

Wine 1:Find a wine with the designation Prosecco DOC.

Wine 2: Find a wine with the designation Moscato d’Asti DOCG.

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