Types of Sparkling Wine Around the World

Champagne is synonymous with sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne. Different types of sparkling wine is made all around the world. Have you seen that meme going around?

It’s not called quarantine unless it’s from the Quarantine region of France, otherwise it’s just sparkling isolation.

Or some variation of it, right? And it’s true. Only sparkling wine from Champagne can be called Champagne. I would argue it’s more crucial how the sparkling wine is made than where it comes from. Yes, Champagne is king and the love of my life, but there are plenty of other types of sparkling wine from areas and producers around the world to have Champagne worrying about a coup d’etat.

Below we’ll discuss:

  • How different types of sparkling wine are made
  • The traditional method of sparkling wine production
  • Then each type of sparkling wine and what they are called around the world
    • Champagne
    • Cremant
    • Cava
    • Espumante
    • Sekt
    • Franciacorta
    • MCC
    • Prosecco
    • Lambrusco
  • Finally, a story about sparkling wine that’ll have you running for the hills.
There is plenty of quality sparkling wine around the world.

Quick and Dirty Guide to Types of Sparkling Wine and Their Names

Cremant– Sparkling wine made in France but not in Champagne
Cava– Sparkling wine made in Spain
Espumante– Sparkling wine made in Portugal
Sekt– Sparkling wine made in Germany
Prosecco, Franciacorta, Lambrusco– Sparkling wine made in Italy
Méthode Cap Classique or MCC– Sparkling wine in South Africa

How is sparkling wine made?

Before we can get through the different regions of the world that make sparkling wine, we must first understand how different types of sparkling wine are made. Where do those bubbles come from? There are 5 or 6 ways, depending on how you differentiate them, of getting bubbles into a wine. I’ll talk about the 3 most common. The bubbles are either produced via a second fermentation in the bottle, a second fermentation in the tank, or injected with carbonation.

A cellar in Champagne lined with riddling racks

Méthode Champenoise or Méthode Traditionelle

As you can imagine this is the way sparkling wine is made in Champagne. Only Champagne is labelled Méthode Champenoise but any other place in the world that makes it in the same way calls it Méthode Traditionelle. This method means that the second fermentation happens in the bottle. This is the superior way of making sparkling wine. It is the most labor intensive and takes the longest amount of time.

How does a second fermentation happen within a bottle? A very basic explanation of fermentation is yeast eats sugar and the by products are alcohol, heat, and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide escapes into the air when making a still (ie not sparkling) wine. To make sparkling wine with this method, a second fermentation needs to be induced within the bottle.

Through remuage, yeast collects at the neck of the bottle.

Second Fermentation in the bottle

How? The winemaker bottles the base wine but adds a bit of sugar and yeast, or liqueur de tirage, to each bottle before sealing it with a crown cap. The yeast will do it’s thing and start eating up that yummy sugar but now the carbon dioxide has no where to go. As you can imagine that pressure builds and builds and the carbon dioxide integrates into the wine creating bubbles and pressure. Eventually the yeast will run out of sugar to eat and will die. The longer the dead yeast stays in the bottle, the more bready, bakery smells and tastes will develop in the wine. Winemakers must leave the dead yeast, or lees, in there for at least 15 months, some choose to leave the lees for years. Sparkling wine made in this method will have tiny bubbles that don’t go flat quickly.

Disgorgement is how the yeast gets out of the bottle.

Disgorgement

Once the winemaker has decided its time to disgorge the wine, she’ll need to get the dead yeast out of the bottle. This is called remuage, or riddling. Traditionally this was done by hand. The bottles are placed in an A-frame. The riddler turns each bottle in a quick movement left and right and upward to loosen the yeast and urge it towards the neck of the bottle. Eventually the bottles are upside down and all the dead yeast is in the neck. At disgorgement, the neck is frozen in liquid nitrogen, the crown cap comes off, an ice cube of dead yeast plops out, the wine gets topped off with its dosage, and in goes the cork and the cage.

Gyropalettes have replaced most riddling racks.

While there may be some small Champagne houses still employing a riddler, gyropalettes now do the remuage . Instead of one person doing it all by hand, the bottles are in a cage and a machine riddles them collectively. This saves time and money.

Charmat or Tank method is an easy and inexpensive way to make sparkling wine.

Tank Method

The tank method, or Charmat method, is conceptually the same as  Méthode Champenoise. However, instead of the second fermentation happening in each individual bottle it happens in a pressurized tank. The base wine is in a large stainless steel tank. The winemaker adds the liqueur de tirage to the entire tank to induce a second fermentation. Again, the sealed tank traps the carbon dioxide. The pressure builds and carbonates the entire tank of wine at once.

Unlike the traditional method, there is no dead yeast in each individual bottle, therefore no disgorgement is necessary. The now sparkling wine is passed through a filter to remove the dead yeast and bottled immediately after fermentation is complete. Charmat method sparkling wines are not aged. They are released soon after bottling.

Injecting carbon dioxide in the wine is the same method used to make soda bubble.

Coca-cola Method or Injection Method

Basically, the winemaker injects carbon dioxide gas into the tank of wine and bottles it. There is no second fermentation. The CO2 is not created through fermentation but by adding it artificially instead. This is a quick and cheap way of making cheap sparkling wine. The bubbles are huge and clumsy and it goes flat very quickly. This is how carbonated sodas are made. Skip down to the bottom to read my crazy story about shitty bubbly wine.

Different Sparkling Wines from Around the World

Now, just because they have specific names or lack thereof does not determine the quality of the sparkling wine. There is quality sparkling wine made around the wine world including England, United States, Russia, and Greece. Look for the production method on the label to ensure the quality level you’re looking for.

Champagne

Region: Champagne, France

Grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier

Method: Méthode Champenoise

Notes: In order to be labeled Champagne, it must be from this strictly limited geographical location. The laws dictate the grapes permitted, the yields, and the method. Non vintage Champagne must spend 15 months sur lie, and vintage Champagne must spend 3 years sur lie, or with its yeast.

A note about California Champagne. So you’ve undoubtedly seen that some wines from California still say Champagne on them. I can think of Andre right off the bat. Well, this is super taboo and frowned upon but not actually illegal. The label laws of Champagne were declared in the Treaty of Versailles. While the United States accepted it as the document to end WWI, they never ratified it so technically the aren’t held to that part of the treaty. Lame, right?

Cremant

Region: Cremant is French sparkling wine but not in Champagne. Almost every wine region makes a Cremant.

Grapes:

  • Cremant de Loire- Chenin Blanc
  • Cremant de Alsace- Dominantly Pinot Bland unless labelled otherwise
  • Cremant de Limoux- Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc
  • Cremant de Bourgogne- Chardonnay or Pinot Noir

Method: Méthode Traditionelle

Rules: Must be Méthode Traditionelle. Each region has specific regulation for labeling.

Notes: Cremant is a great way to experience sparkling wine from all different types of grapes. Personal favorite is Cremant from Chenin Blanc. An inexpensive alternative to Champagne.

Cremant is a type of sparkling wine from France
Cremant is French sparkling wine made in the traditional method outside of Champagne.

Cava

Region: All over Spain but mostly Catalonia, specifically Penedes

Grapes: Xarel·lo, Macabeo and Parellada

Method: Méthode Traditionelle

Rules: Must be Méthode Traditionelle. Must spend 9 months sur lie, 15 months for Reserva, and 24 months for Grande Reserva.

Notes: Cava is a fantastic less expensive alternative to Champagne.

Espumante

Region: Barraida, Portugal

Grapes: Arinto

Method: Méthode Traditionelle

Rules: Okay, Portuguese sparkling wine is very confusing. I’d be lying if I said I understand it myself. Basically, there is sparkling wine throughout Portugal at different quality levels. Only sparkling from Barraida is classified as Espumante but that’s not to say it’s the only region making wine in the traditional method.

Second fermentation happens in the bottle for quality sparking wine.

Sekt

Region: Germany

Grapes: Riesling, Pinot Noir

Method: Every method of sparkling wine production can be called Sekt. Klassische Flaschengärung is German for traditional method.

Notes: Sekt is the German word for sparkling wine. But crazily enough, the grapes don’t even have to be from Germany to be called Sekt. If the grapes are from Germany it’s Deutscher Sekt. There’s a million different quality levels and rules and it’s all German to me. My advice, the price will dictate the quality. Start in the middle and work your way up to Klassische Flaschengärung.

Shop the sweatshirt!

Franciacorta

Region: Lombardy, Italy

Grapes: Chardonnay and a little Pinot Bianco

Method: Méthode Traditionelle

Notes: Franciacorta is relatively new. It’s only been around since the 1960s.

South African sparkling wine is worth a look.

Méthode Cap Classique or MCC

Region: South Africa

Grapes: All of them with a focus on traditonal Champagne grapes- Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier

Method: Méthode Traditionelle

Rules: Must be traditional method to get the MCC labeling. Must be sur lie for at least 9 months.

Notes: MCC is South Africa’s response to Champagne. Basically, they wanted a classification for high quality sparkling wines to differentiate from a lot of the tank method and crappy carbonated wines on the market in the 80’s and 90’s.

Types of Sparkling Wine Made in the Charmat Method

Prosecco

Region: Veneto and Friuli, Italy

Grapes: Glera but the grape can also be called Prosecco

Method: Charmat Method

Notes: Prosecco runs the gambit. There is cheap crappy Prosecco but also some producers trying to make a better quality like those labeled Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG. Because Prosecco is made in the tank method, it’s a relatively inexpensive way to get your bubbles on.

Lambrusco photo By CCFoodTravel

Lambrusco

Region: Emilia Romagna, Italy (Northern Italy)

Grapes: Lambrusco is the name of the grape and the style of the wine. Lambrusco is a red grape with many different clonal varieties.

Method: Charmat Method

Notes: Lambrusco has a reputation of being a sweet sparkling red wine. Dry styles, secco, do exist.

I need to tell you this story about carbonated wine.

As some of you know, my husband is originally from California. Before we moved to Crete, I moved out there. He’s from the Central Valley, home to two of the largest wineries in the world. Think bulk shitty wine. I got a job as a salesperson at one of them but for their fine wine brands. As all sales jobs, we worked with incentives to sell certain products. In 2011 the hot thing was Moscato, maybe it still is, I’m not cool. The company I worked for created a sparkling Pink Moscato with a sexy label. We had a 10% commission on it so I sold it like crazy. A lot of the restaurants I was selling to wanted single serving bottles, otherwise called splits, since with carbonated wines they go flat quickly.

At every sales meeting, we’d keep asking about splits of this bubbly shit. Eventually they announced that they’ll be available on Monday for delivery, so start selling it every where. So we did. Personally, I had over 10 restaurants waiting for their single serving bottles for Monday morning. They had already changed their menus and everything.

Where’s the wine?

Well Monday morning rolls around and my phone starts blowing up. First from a few of the restaurants saying the splits weren’t with their delivery and then from other salespeople. No one at corporate was answering the phones. I was the salesperson closest to headquarters so they were calling me to see if I knew what was up with the small bottles of Sparkling Pink Moscato. I drive over there and walked into the office with a bit of bitchy attitude since everyone was on my ass to find out what was going on. Well, I immediately changed my demeanor when I saw the absolute wrath and fury of one of the owners. Literally just screaming. I just turned around and left. I wanted no part of it.

Later that day we got an email that the wine wouldn’t be released for another month with no further explanation. Well, I got to know all the office girls since I was there all the time picking up and dropping off so I got the inside scoop. Turns out, when they ordered the bottles for splits, they ordered them from France. A French split is 200ml. An American split is 187ml. When they were bottling the splits with 187ml of wine, the fill line was off. Quality Control didn’t catch this mistake until they had already filled a million bottles! I’m not sure exactly the legality of it but you can’t sell 187ml of wine in a 200ml bottle because it looks like you’re getting more than you are. So almost a million bottles of wine wasted. Okay, tragic, right? THAT’S NOT THE BAD PART!!!!

You’re not going to believe this

Well, this being a huge conglomerate, they weren’t exactly going to cut their losses and move on. Almost 10 years later, this still shocks me. It would be too labor intensive and time consuming to open every single bottle and dump it out. SO INSTEAD they put every single bottle, with the label, the cork, the everything into a gigantic crusher and crushed them. CRUSHED THE ENTIRE BOTTLE AND THEN JUST FILTERED OUT THE WINE!!!! They filtered out the glass and the rest of the shit, recarbonated it when the new bottles arrived and sold it just like that. Like, seriously, what the fuck. So gross. Anyway, moral of the story, don’t buy carbonated shitty wine.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does Prosecco last unopened?

Prosecco will last up to three years without opening it. However, Prosecco is revered because it is light and fruity. Those characteristics in Prosecco will diminish as time goes on. It is best to consume Prosecco within a year of purchasing it. The great benefit of Prosecco, is that it is an inexpensive wine so you can open it whenever the mood fits!

A guide to types of sparkling wine from around the world.
Wine.com

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