Sparkling Wines and Champagne: 3. Champange in France; Sparkling Wine Around The World

Posted by on Jan 5, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Sparkling Wines and Champagne: 3. Champange in France; Sparkling Wine Around The World

If you are just joining us, welcome to the three-part Sparkling Wine and Champagne blog series. This is the third blog in the series. If you missed the first blog on 1. The Origins Of Champagne, or the second blog on 2. How Champagne Is Made, then be sure to check them out.

Now, onto the different types of sparkling wine found not only in France, but around the world.

Vintage Champagne

In the Champagne region the wines are separated into the non-vintage and Vintage classifications. The non-vintage Champagnes are considered entry-level, whereas the vintage Champagnes are considered to be the premium sparkling wine from that particular house. The most common grapes used for Champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The Champagne Houses can use the three grape varieties in a number of combinations, but in most cases you will only usually get Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the Vintage Champagnes.

The following is a quick list of some of the more common Champagnes that you would expect to find in the French valley.

  • Blanc de Blancs – Champagne made from all white grapes
  • Blanc de Noirs – White Champagne made from black grapes
  • Brut – Is a dry Champagne and is most common Champagne on the market
  • Demi-Sec – Is a sweeter style of Champagne
  • Extra Dry – Actually slightly misleading as these Champagne styles taste kind of sweeter.
  • Rose – They will leave the skins in contact with white juice during the first fermentation to create the color.

At this point you may be wondering the following: “So, what about the other regions in France? Do they produce sparkling wine as well?” The answer is a resounding yes! The legacy and terrior of Champagne overshadows other notable regions like Alsace, Burgundy, Loire and Limoux.

Here is a quick sample of some of the sparkling wines found outside of the Champagne region:

  • Cremant d’Alsace – made from Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. You will also see some styles made with Riesling and Chardonnay. These sparkling wines are made in traditional method, just like Champagnes.
  • Cremant de Bourgogne– Is a white or a rose sparkling wine from Burgundy that is usually made with mostly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and sometimes some Gamay Noir.
  • Cremant de Limoux – Is a white sparkling wine made from Mauzac, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. Majority of the blending for this sparkling is Mauzac and Chardonnay.
  • Cremants of the Loire – These sparkling wines come from three different regions in the Loire Valley; Anjou, Saumur and Touraine. Chenin Blanc is primary grape used in these Sparkling wines, but you will also see some common grapes from Loire used in the blends. They are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Grolleau Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.

It wouldn’t be a comprehensive list of sparkling wine without taking a quick trip outside of France to explore a couple other countries who make sparkling wine extremely well. We’ll do that now.

Spanish Sparkling Wines

Spain is the second largest producer of traditional method sparkling wine and it known as Cava. Most Cava is dry with a little acidity, but this can change based on the grapes that are being used. In recent years more and more producers of Cava are using Chardonnay because of its fruit and acidity.

Cava is available in a variety of different styles, and they are broken down here according to their sugar/sweetness levels: Extra Brut – 0 – 6 grams per litre; Brut – 0 – 15 grams per litre; Extra Seco – 12 – 20 grams per liter; Seco – 17 – 35 grams per liter; Semi-Seco – 33 – 50 grams per liter; Dulce – 50+ grams per liter.

Italian Sparkling Wines

Italians have been making sparkling as long or longer then the Champagne region. Italy calls its sparkling wines Spumante, which means “foaming”. Most the Italian sparkling wine comes from Northern part of Italy: Piedmont, Veneto, and Lombardy.

There are three different styles of sparkling wine from Italy that all use the tank method:

  • Prosecco – Is considered a summer sipper and often dry. That, however, is changing and you now see some dry styles on the market. Prosecco is also very commonly used to make Bellini’s, a popular fruit cocktail in Spain.
  • Asti – Asti is made from the Muscat grape and comes from Piedmont area of Italy. It is a light, white sparkling wine that is off dry and has lots of good acidity—this makes it good for food pairing. My favorite pairing for this sparkling wine is a waffle breakfast with whip cream and strawberries.
  • Moscato d’Asti – Is similar to Asti, but has less muse (bubbles) and is lighter in alcohol.

Sparkling Wines From The New World

There are many New World countries making sparkling wine including North America, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and many more. In terms of the method of production, most of these countries are using traditional or transfer methods. As in France, the most common grape varieties being used are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay; however, mostly in Australia there is a newer trends with sparkling reds made from Shiraz. (Trust me, they are delicious.)

So with New Years on our doorstep, and family and friends gathered, it’s time to start the celebrating. Pop a bottle and let those corks fly.  That concludes our three-part series on Sparkling Wines and Champagne. Thanks for reading!


More Wine Information To Come:

Be sure to stay tuned for our upcoming blogs:
1. A lesson on sabering Champagne.
2. Wine Glassware
3. Decanters and Aerators
4. Corkscrews

About Dave Keighron

Dave Keighron has written 63 posts in this blog.

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