A Primer for Buying Bubbles

Sparkling Wine, Champagne, Ancestral, Lambrusco, Bubbly, Cava, Prosecco?! What does it all mean?  It all sounds so different yet kind of the same? 


Well let's break it down to what you need to know
when it comes to Sparkling Wine.

Champagne is a type of sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France. It can't be made anywhere else. However, if you wanted something similar you can find it's dopplegangers that are produced in the same fashion called Traditional method. 

What does traditional method mean? 

It means that the wine transforms from still to sparkling entirely in the bottle. The winemakers will make a blend called a cuvee (traditionally of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot menieur). After the first fermentation the winemakers will then add the 'triage', which is an addition of yeast and sugar to the cuvee when it's bottled, kicking off the second fermentation. The second fermentation will then add a little bit more alcohol and create CO2 into the mix, carbonating the wine. With the rise in alcohol the yeast that was added, naturally dies and then goes by the name lees. The wine will then age on it's lees and gain texture and an autolytic(toasty) character. Now for the fun part.... The will will go into a rack horizontally where it is 'riddled'(gently turned very slowly from horizontal to an upside down vertical state... allowing the lees to migrate from the bottle of the bottle to the nose of the bottle. The winemakers will freeze the nose of the bottle and pop open the bottle, forcing the lees out. This is where winemakers will add in a dosage(a sugar and wine mixture) to add a little sweetness. 

Traditional method is definitely the most labour intensive and costly of all sparkling wine production.  

Our favourite Traditional Method sparkling is the Bella Vineyards Kings Estate made of Chardonnay and Gamay Noir. It is light, with luxurious mousse, citrus, apples, notes of brioche and toasted nuts.



Tank Method 

The major difference between the tank method and the traditional method is the removal of the individual bottle as the vessel used to turn a still wine into a sparkling one. Instead, base wines are added together with the sugar and yeast mixture (tirage) into a large tank. As the wine has a second fermentation, the CO2 released from the fermentation causes the tank to pressurize, whereafter wines are then filtered, dosed (with Expedition liqueur) and bottled without aging.

Tank method sparkling wines have a much more freshly made character with stronger secondary (yeasty) flavours

Our favourite tank method is the famous Lambrusco. It is a sparkling red wine from Emilia-Romagna. It is off dry, frothy and full of blackberries, black cherries, and strawberries. 


Ancestral method

In order to produce the most ancient for of sparkling wine, the winemakers must use icy temperatures (and filteration) to pause the fermentation mid-way for a period of months and then wines are bottled and the fermentation finishes, trapping the CO2 in the bottle. When the desired level of CO2 is reached, wines are chilled again, riddled and disgorged just like the traditional method, but no expedition liqueur (sugar) is added. Earliest form of sparkling production.

Our favourite Ancestral Method wine is Sage Hills Gewurtraminer. It is off dry, with notes of citrus, peach, tropical fruits and a tangy salinity.