While Champagne has gained worldwide recognition as the most famous sparkling wine, not all sparkling wine is Champagne. There are many sparkling wines made by winemakers all over the globe, each with one common feature: bubbles.
Sparkling Wine Types Vary Depending on the Production Method
The method of making sparkling wine is one way to classify it. There are many winemaking methods that can produce different types and varieties of bubbles.
These are the most popular methods of making sparkling wines:
- Methode champenoise (traditional method), such as in Champagne, Cremant, and Cava
- Charmant method (tank method, metodo Italiano, or metodo martinotti), such as Lambrusco, Prosecco, Moscato d’Asti, or Sekt
- Methode ancestrale (petillant–naturel, pet–nat, and petillant originel) is often found in sparkling dessert wines or aperitifs
The original dioise process is used to produce Asti Spumante.
Soviet sparkling wines made using the continuous method (Russian Method)
Aerated sparkling wines are made using the carbonation method (soda)
Champagne is made only in France’s Champagne region using the traditional champenoise method. These are the two requirements for Champagne bottles to be labeled. True Champagne is only made from certain grapes, with the three most popular being the top three.
- Pinot Noir
- Pinot Meunier
- Pinot Blanc
- Petit Meslier
- Pinot Gris
There are many types of champagne.
- Vintage Champagne is made from grapes from one vintage.
- Non-vintage Champagne refers to a mixture of vintage grapes.
- There are many levels of dryness for Champagne. These range from the driest to the sweetest: Brut Nature, Extra Brut Nature and Extra Dry, Dry.
- Champagne can also come in white or rose.
- Along with traditional Champagne blends, a Champagne may be a blanc de blancs (all Chardonnay) or blanc de noirs (all red wine grapes).
- Prestige Champagnes are the best Champagne made by a winemaker.
Cremant is a French term for sparkling wines made outside champagne flutes plastic using the champenoise method. The wines are made using the same process as Champagne but may contain different grapes. Cremant can be found in eight regions of France.
- Cremant de Bourgogne comes from the Burgundy region. The grapes used are primarily Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but they could also include other grapes from the region such as Gamay.
- Cremant d’Alsace is a French-German blend of the Alsace region. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and other grapes such as Riesling and Pinot Gris are some examples.
- Cremant de Loire is a blend of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc from the Loire region.
Other regions and wines include Cremant de Limoux, Cremant de Bordeaux, Cremant de Savoie, Cremant di Jura, and Cremant de Die. The grapes used will be from the region where they were grown.
Other French regions also produce sparkling wines using other methods than the champenoise method. These wines are called Mousseux. These wines are made from grapes from many different regions of France.
While true Champagne comes only from France, some California winemakers are able to label their sparkling wines California Champagne due to a loophole in international wine laws that allowed wineries already using the name “Champagne” in 2006 to be grandfathered-in and still be allowed to use the term in perpetuity. You will also find sparkling wines made in California, called “California Champagne.”
American Sparkling Wine
Many American sparkling wines aren’t California Champagne-style. The majority are known as “sparkling wine”, but many others can be called that. While many use the methode champenoise for sparkling wines, some wineries use other methods, such as carbonation. The website of the winery will usually reveal the method they use.
American sparkling wines are available in almost every style possible. There is a lot of overlap in the labeling of vintage and non-vintage as well as the different levels and drynesses of the grapes and the wine styles. Outside of California, many winemakers in Oregon produce extremely good Champagne-style sparkling wines.
Spanish winemakers produce Cava, a traditional Spanish sparkling wine made using the methode champenoise. All Cava must come from Catalonia. Sparkling wines must be designated for wine that doesn’t meet these requirements. Rose cavas cannot be made with blending; they must be made using the Saignee. Cava is made from the following grapes:
- Pinot Noir
In Germany and Austria, sparkling wines are made using different methods into the traditional sparkling wine, Sekt. German Sekt is made from Riesling, although you might also find it mixed with other German grapes. Austrian Sekt’s primary grape is Gruner Veltliner, which can be paired with other Austrian grapes.
Prosecco from Italy’s Valdobbiadene region is made using the Charmant method. Prosecco must contain at least 85 percent white Glera grapes. Prosecco is more affordable than Champagne so it is a popular choice for parties. It comes in a range of dryness, from Brut (12g/liter residual sugar) up to Dry (17-32g/liter residual sugar).
Many people are shocked to find that Lambrusco has bubbles when they first try it. Lambrusco is a lightly sweet, sparkling red wine from Italy made using the Charmant method. This wine is fizzy, fruity, and fun.
Metodo Classico wines are Italy’s sparkling wines made using the methode champenoise. These wines have many similarities to Champagne in terms of the grapes used and production methods.