In a previous post
we looked at how Champagne
is made and the history
Well, with Christmas
fast approaching it's worth taking into account that not all that fizzes is Champagne and with so many different styles of sparkling wine out there it is easy to pick the right wine for the right situation at the right budget. Gone are the days when fizz was just for a ‘special occasion
’, you can spend as much or as little as you can afford and still enjoy the decadence of sipping something chilled out of a flute glass.
Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery
The Traditional Method
of making sparkling wine is now emulated across the world and many New World examples offer great value for money. The most 'international' grape varieties have been from France
, this combined with the desire to imitate the original has lead to Champagne being the most copied sparkling wine. Several of the big Champagne houses have set up operations in California, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand in order to produce sparkling wines blending Old World tradition with a New World accent. They are often a blend of just Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, leaving out the Pinot Meurnier.
But there's no need to necessarily leave France to find good value sparkling, most regions have their own local fizz, often known as Crémant
, made from traditional grapes of the region. It is made in much the same way as Champagne up until the final process. Whereas Champagne is produced start to finish in the same bottle, for Crémant it undergoes its second fermentation in the bottle but then, rather than go through the long winded process of remuage,
the wine from many bottles is disgorged, under pressure, into a tank. The sediment is filtered out and the wine refilled into new bottles.
Another country producing its own style of sparkling wine from local grape varieties is Spain. Cava
is produced predominantly in the Catalan region and can be non-vintage, vintage and rosé. Traditional Cava has quite a strong, unique flavour, ideal to match to the cuisine of the region but more recently some producers are making more contemporary styles. They are using a proportion of Chardonnay to lighten the blend creating a fresher, more easy-drinking wine. Cava is often very good value for money coming in at the same price most of us would happily pay for still wine. It makes fizz more accessible and is a great alternative to Champagne if your budget isn’t huge.
The Italian Job
If you are looking for a sparkling wine that can be drunk at lunch time or just something that is a little bit lighter than Champagne then Prosecco
is definitely the way to go. Made from the Prosecco grape in Veneto, Italy it is light, clean, refreshing and citrussy and is regularly drunk by Italians at all times of the day. We have a nice cup of tea, they have a chilled glass of Prosecco! It is great value for money and can either be frizzante
, lightly sparkling or a spumante
, fully sparkling with the best examples coming from around the towns of Valdobiadene and Conegliano.
Green Green Grass of Home
Well, vineyards of home that should be.
In an era when a lot of us are looking to source foods locally and in season it seems odd that we don’t think of our wine in the same way.
English sparkling wine
has really gained in popularity lately and has often beaten Champagne in blind tastings around the world. The south sees the best examples, around Kent, Sussex and Hampshire but fizz is being produced all over the country and as far north as Leeds! Take a day out and go visit one of our 398 vineyards in England and Wales and enjoy with local cheeses. Unlike Champagne many of our home grown fizz is vintage. We only produce small amounts of excellent quality grapes so there simply isn't enough to make non-vintage fizz. This year however, this strategy has not proved fruitful as the weather has been so cool over summer that many of the grapes have not ripened enough. as a result several prestigious vineyards are not able to make a vintage wine.
Whatever style of fizz takes your fancy remember to keep it nice and chilled for the warm weather we are crossing our fingers for.