Sparkling Wines of the World
Get to know the popular styles of sparkling.
A classic for good reason, champagne has gained an illustrious reputation within the world of sparkling wine for its depth, character and flavour.
The three main varieties used in the crafting of champagne are the white grape chardonnay, and the red (black) grapes pinot noir and pinot meunier.
Only grapes grown in one of the 319 villages in the region of Champagne in northern France are able to legally use the name champagne. As such, its exclusivity makes champagne the sparkling wine of choice for those premium celebrations.
In terms of what to look for on the label, remember that ‘vintage’ refers to a harvest from a single year and is often considered to be of a higher-quality than non-vintage wines.
You may see the term ‘blanc de blancs’ on champagne bottle labels, indicating that it is a sparkling wine made from the white grape chardonnay. These lighter and drier wines are the perfect accompaniment to a zesty spring salad or fresh seafood with a squeeze of lemon.
The most popular champagne styles are intensely dry and favour warm, nutty flavours over their fruiter notes for a creamy finish.
Italy’s entry into sparkling wine is fresh, clean and lively. Made predominantly from the highly aromatic glera grape – which produces a dry, brut style – prosecco’s sweetness comes from the grape’s characteristic fruit flavours of apple, melon and pear. These are often balanced with a touch of citrus or rounded out with peach for a creamier finish.
You’re also likely to note that prosecco bubbles are light and frothy, leaving a welcome tingle on your tongue.
A Spanish sparkling wine that tends to be on the dry side. Full of crisp apple flavours, cava is produced in the same way that champagne is made, but with different grapes – the three main grapes being macabeu, parellada and xarel·lo – and is mostly found in Catalonia, in the northeast by Barcelona.
Cava can be white or a rosé. You’ll often find that it has pear and melon notes, with faint floral aromatics. Aside from tasting delicious, cava is also renowned for being great value for money.
Australia is fast establishing itself as a competitor to the old houses from France. Much of Australia’s wine country is too hot to make truly great sparkling – but in looking to the cooler climates, the higher altitudes and more southerly regions, Australia has begun producing some world-class bubbles.
The cooler climates in our high-country areas, including Victoria, Tasmania, and the Adelaide Hills, are producing some excellent high-quality sparkling. This largely follows Champagne’s lead in blending chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.
King Valley is the home to a 50km food and wine trail known as ‘Prosecco Road’ – no prizes for guessing their specialty.
Thanks to a wave of Italian immigrants in the 1960s, like Otto Dal Zotto, the King Valley region gradually began to plant classic Italian varieties. In 2000 Dal Zotto planted the first glera grapes and Australian prosecco production began.
Prosecco is also made with great success in cooler climate regions like the Adelaide Hills and Yarra Valley.
Beyond Traditional Sparkling
We’ve noticed that sparkling rosé has recently surged in popularity. With its warm pink blush, you’d be forgiven for assuming sparkling rosé would be the epitome of sweetness. In reality, the opposite is true, with sparkling rosé tending to be at the drier end of the scale. Their fruit notes can vary in intensity, from just a hint of red berries, through to the warmer depths of a rich red wine.
In Champagne the winemakers blend somewhere between 5 and 10 percent of still red wine into the sparkling base to create the colour that enchants the eye.
The perfect party drink, sparkling rosés are ideal served as an aperitif. They’re also a lovely complement to delicate hors d’oeuvres made from smoked salmon, sushi or lobster.
Sparkling red is also transcending novelty status. This lesser explored area of sparkling wine is worth investigating as there are lots of gems to discover. It’s easy to see why Australians would like a chilled red – our climate makes a slightly chilled sparkling red a wonderful option during the warmer months. The main variety has been shiraz but you’ll also find excellent sparkling merlot, cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir.