If you’re celebrating something, you need sparkling wine. It’s fresh, easy to drink, everyone loves it and it’s always a zero risk gift when you’re invited for dinner.
What is a sparkling wine?
It is a fizzy wine containing carbon dioxide bubbles, generally created naturally by a second fermentation. There are different kinds of sparkling wines: the most common sparkling wines are white but it can be rose or red and they have different levels of sweetness, ranging from very dry (or brut) to sweet (or doux).
When is the best time to drink sparkling wine?
Sparkling wine reigns when it comes to cocktail and appetizer time. You don’t have to wait for the next wedding or big event to drink Champagne, as it will always be a good surprise before dinner. It’s also is a great way to end a dinner, served with dessert, especially for a birthday celebration. But you will create real surprise and excitement serving it with a brunch on Sunday with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon.
How to pair sparkling wine (in its dry or brut version)
The best thing about sparkling wine is you don’t need food or snacks to go with it. The fresh bubbles do all the work. However, there are thousands of great pairings you can make. Here are our top picks:
Sparkling wine paired with appetizers:
Warm cheese puffs
Smoked salmon toasts
Sparkling wine paired with main dishes:
Any and all kinds of shrimp dishes, even spicy
Chicken (with cream, fried, in coconut milk, etc.)
Sparkling wine paired with desserts:
Red fruit tarts and pies
Apple based desserts
Almond based desserts
How is sparkling wine made?
There are at least 6 different methods to making these fine bubbles. This is what makes a Prosecco so different from a Champagne.
The 5 most used methods to make sparkling wine:
The traditional method, or “Méthode Champenoise”
After the regular fermentation that turns grape sugar into alcohol, the wine is bottled with a small amount of yeast and sugar added, to start a second fermentation inside the bottle. The bottles are left for ageing “on the lees” (dead yeast particles left in the bottle) between 9 months and 5 years. Bottles are then slowly turned to let the lees come down the bottle neck, which is dipped in a frozen bath and opened so the frozen block of lees pops out (disgorging). A small amount of wine and sugar – also called Liqueur d’expédition - is finally added before the bottle can be closed again. The pressure inside the bottle reaches 75 to 99 PSI, 5 to 9 times as much as atmospheric pressure.
It is a long and complex process which is why authentic Champagne is more expensive.
The tank method, used for Prosecco
As for the traditional method, some yeast and sugar are added to the wine. The mix is added in a pressure resistant tank for the second fermentation, is filtered and receives a last wine and sugar mix before bottling. Pressure in the bottle is about half that of Champagne pressure, which results in bigger bubbles. This simpler process is often used for more affordable wines, but some really fine wines are made with the tank method.
Similar to the traditional method, except the wine is transferred to a pressured tank and filtered after second fermentation. It is mostly used for oversized bottles bigger than magnum.
This method is likely how sparkling wines were discovered, supposedly by the French Benedictine monk Dom Perignon in the late 17th century. Sparkling wine has actually been mentioned since antiquity and it was a nightmare for all winemakers. It could make the production of a whole year explode in glass bottles. Due to the cold climate of the Champagne region in France, the fermentation process was often stopped half way for the entire winter. The process started again with residual sugar in the bottles in the spring time, creating the carbon dioxide. Today we artificially stop and start the fermentation in a controlled environment. No extra sugar or yeast is needed which is why we also refer to these wines as Pétillants Naturels (naturally fizzy).
This method uses gas injection, like for most industrial sparkling drinks. It is mostly used for lower quality wines but has some benefits and creates some decent wines.