the ultimate sparkling wine guide: mastering pairing, storing and serving

Dive into the effervescent world of sparkling wine! Champagne, the bubbly icon, hails from a specific French region and boasts strict production methods, resulting in complex flavours and delicate bubbles.

But the world is brimming with diverse sparklers like Italy's light & fruity Prosecco, Spain's dry & toasty Cava, and France's regional Crémants. Each offers unique styles and price points, waiting to be discovered.

how is sparkling wine made?

Sparkling wine's signature bubbles arise from a fascinating process: after an initial fermentation, a 2nd one occurs, either in tanks for everyday options or within individual bottles for premium versions like Champagne. During this stage, yeast consumes sugar, releasing carbon dioxide trapped within the wine, creating the effervescence.

Champagne utilises specific grapes and extended aging, leading to complex notes and delicate bubbles, while Prosecco, with different grapes and shorter aging, offers a lighter, fruitier expression. Regardless of the method, the yeast sediment is removed, often through techniques like riddling or filtration.

Finally, a touch of sugar may be added for sweetness balance.

  • champagne, france

    The undisputed king of bubbly, Champagne boasts a rich history and strict regulations that ensure exceptional quality. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes are used to create complex, elegant wines with fine bubbles and toasty notes.

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  • Veneto, italy

    The reigning king of popularity, Prosecco hails from Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Made using the Charmat method with the Glera grape, it's known for its light, fruity, and affordable style. While some find it simpler, its easy-drinking nature appeals to many.

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  • Sussex, england

    England's sparkling wine scene is on the rise, with Sussex emerging as a key region. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes are used to produce wines that rival Champagne in quality, with the added benefit of being made closer to home.

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  • California, USA

    California produces diverse sparkling wines, from méthode traditionnelle styles in regions like Napa Valley and Sonoma to innovative Charmat method wines like those found in Anderson Valley. Californian sparkling showcase a wide range of grape varieties and styles, amongst them, the Chardonnay.

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  • Cava, Spain

    Primarily produced in Catalonia, Cava is made using the traditional Champenoise method and typically uses indigenous Spanish grapes like Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel-lo. Cava offers a range of styles, from Brut Nature (dry) to Semi Seco (sweet), known for their good value and lively acidity.

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food pairing

Salads

  • Bold & Robust: A dry Cava or Brut Champagne cuts through richer salads with grilled meats, walnuts, or strong cheeses.

sauces

  • Creamy & Rich: Avoid clashing sweetness. Choose dry sparklings like Brut Nature Champagne or Extra Brut Cava to balance richness.

  • Spicy & Fiery: Embrace the bubbles! Crémants d'Alsace or dry Prosecco offer refreshing acidity to tame the heat.

beef

  • Grilled & Lean: Look for Blanc de Noirs Champagne or Pinot Noir-based sparkling with earthy notes that complement grilled flavours.

  • Rich & Braised: Go bold with mature Champagne or vintage sparkling that have developed richer characters to stand up to robust sauces.

Chicken

  • Roasted & Crispy: Dry sparkling like Prosecco or Cava are perfect partners for the crispy skin, their acidity cutting through richness.

  • Spicy & Saucy: Crémants de Bourgogne or Blanc de Blancs Champagne with their refreshing fruitiness balance creamy or spicy sauces.

seafood

  • Raw & Delicate: Oysters and sashimi crave the clean minerality of Brut Champagne or dry Prosecco.

  • Shellfish & Crustaceans: Go bolder with Blanc de Noirs Champagne or Cava's toasty notes, complementing their richer flavours.

fish

  • White & Mild: Embrace delicate sparkling like Prosecco or dry Sekt with subtle fruitiness to enhance the fish's natural sweetness.

  • Oily & Smoked: Opt for richer sparkling like Blanc de Noirs Champagne or Cava with toasty notes that match the intensity of oily fish.

cheese

  • Hard & Salty: Look for dry, aged sparkling like vintage Champagne or Extra Brut Cava to stand up to the cheese's sharpness.

  • Soft & Creamy: Go for fruity and slightly sweet sparkling like Moscato d'Asti or demi-sec Champagne to complement creaminess.

desert

  • Fruity & Sweet: Match sweetness with sweetness! Moscato d'Asti or sweeter styles of Prosecco sing alongside fruity desserts.

sparkling wine cheat sheet

  • Darkness is key

    Light can damage the wine, so store in a cool, dark place like a wine cellar or refrigerator.

  • Temperature matters

    Maintain a consistent temperature, ideally 8-10°C, to prevent fluctuations that can affect the bubbles and flavour.

  • Horizontal position

    Lay the bottle horizontally to keep the cork moist, ensuring a proper seal.

  • Open bottle timeline

    Once opened, store sparkling wine in the refrigerator with a stopper and enjoy within 1-3 days for optimal flavour and fizz.

  • Chill factor

    Aim for 8-10°C for most sparkling wines. Remember, warmer temperatures mean faster fizz loss.

  • Glass choice

    Flutes are classic, but wider tulip glasses are gaining favour, allowing for better aroma appreciation. Avoid coupes, which lose bubbles quickly.

  • The pour

    Don't shake the bottle! Gently tilt it and pour slowly down the side of the glass, aiming for a half-full glass to leave room for the bubbles.

  • Top-ups

    Pour smaller amounts and top up frequently to maintain the perfect chilled temperature and effervescence.

  • Ice bucket method

    Fill a bucket with ice, water, and a touch of salt for faster chilling. Submerge the bottle completely for 20-30 minutes for most sparkling.

  • Fridge method

    For a slower, gentler chill, place the bottle upright in the coldest part of your fridge for 3-4 hours.

  • Quick chill option

    Wrap the bottle in a wet cloth and place it in the freezer for 20-30 minutes (not recommended for long-term storage).

spotlight on english sparkling wines