What better way to celebrate than with a glass of sparkling bubbles?
We often hear people talk about “champagne” as a generic term for sparkling wine, but it should be reserved for sparkling wines that come from the Champagne wine region of France. Other popular sparkling wines are Cava, from Spain, and Prosecco from Italy.
The 3 types of sparkling wine we discuss here have different characteristics:
Champagne: Legally, only sparkling wine that is made from grapes of the Champagne wine region of France is supposed to be called Champagne. Sort of. Some wineries in the U.S. have been grandfathered to allow the use of the term champagne via a very complicated legal decision, which dates back to the Treaty of Versailles. You can read more about it here.
But we digress…
Champagne must also follow the rules about secondary fermentation to produce bubbles, and be made according to the appellation rules. Champagne is made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay grapes. One dubious legend states that Dom Perignon invented champagne by accident, crying “I’m drinking stars!” Truthfully, while he did contribute a lot to improving the quality of wines in Champagne, the credit for “inventing” sparkling wine should go to a 17th-Century English scientist named Christopher Merret.
Cava: This popular Spanish sparkling wine is made in Catalonia, with some unusual and not so common grape varieties: macabeu, parellada and xarel·lo, or in the case of rosé cava, a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha or Monastre grapes are added. Cava is a relative newcomer to the sparkling wine world, dating only to the 1870’s, when the winemaker Josep Raventós traveled to Champagne for inspiration on what to do with a large volumne of white grapes in the vineyard in Penedès.
Prosecco: The Italian version of sparkling wine is made in the very northeastern part of Italy. The grape, Glera, originated in the town of Prosecco, near Treiste. Trieste is nestled between Croatia and Slovenia on the Adriatic coast.
Both Cava and Prosecco can be tasty, inexpensive substitutes for Champagne, and all sparkling wines can be enjoyed without food. If you do want to take it up a notch, they make an excellent pair with seafood, especially raw oysters or anything with a citrus or stone fruit sauce. The bubbly can also be a marvelous accompaniment to goat cheese, burrata, or a rich remoulade.
Part of what makes sparkling wines such a great choice for celebrations are the aesthetics around serving them, which engage all of the senses. You first see the sweating wine bucket that holds a chilled bottle nestled in a bed of ice, then anticipate the *pop* of the cork, and hear a little sigh as it is released from the bottle. As the wine is poured you marvel at the beautiful straw or golden bubbles and hear the fizz as it’s poured into glasses. As you finally get to taste, the bubbles explode in the mouth, with yeast, or citrus, or wood, or one of a thousand other flavors.
So the next time you want to celebrate, whether it’s the purchase of a new house, a marriage, or just the end of a long work day, think about popping open a sparkler, and make some memories!
If you’d like to hear more about Sparkling Wine, check out this video: