No, You Didn’t Bring Me A Bottle of Champagne:
The number of times that I’ve had a friend head over and get me excited by saying they’re bringing Champagne, only to be disappointed by a cheap bottle of Prosecco is high. Not to sound snobby, I just really love Champagne! And then I remember not everybody understands the world of sparkling wine the way that I do, and for most Champagne is a blanket term for bubbles. So I wanted to write up a quick introduction to the different styles of sparkling wines in the world and what makes them different.
The king of all sparkling wines, these wines must come from the Champagne region to be able to use the word on the label. What makes Champagne special is very much because of where it is grown on top of how it is made. It is almost always made with some combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Meunier in a process called the traditional method. The traditional method means that the wine goes through one large primary fermentation and when that is complete the wine is put into the bottle with a little bit of yeast and sugar. As the yeast eats the sugar it creates CO2, and voila! Natural bubbles. That process combined with the strict rules of Champagne are what makes it special.
Also made in the traditional method with a few key differences to Champagne. Cava comes exclusively from Spain and typically uses indigenous grape varieties. Cremants come from certain regions in France (Loire, Burgundy, Alsace) and are typically blends of some of the common grapes from the area. Both are far more lenient in their rules as far as growing and aging standards. Many easy affordable options are available and some can be great value alternatives to Champagne.
Prosecco comes from Northern Italy and is typically made from a grape called Glera. Prosecco is where things really start getting different as far as winemaking. After the first fermentation the base wine is placed in a large, sealed tank, where secondary fermentation is carried out. This creates much softer carbonation compared to bottle fermentation and is why Prosecco tends to go flat faster. Stylistically Prosecco is also generally a bit sweeter.
Pet Nats are made in the Ancestral Method. This method is likely how the first sparkling wines came to be, but with modern technology can now be controlled more. Essentially you take your already fermenting wine and chill it down to stop fermentation. In the old days the natural cold of winter could do this. You then put it in bottle and when things warm back up the yeast becomes active and finishes the fermentation creating bubbles. Pet Nats can often have more sweetness to them because of this and have become very popular in the natural wine movement.
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