I love bubbles! Champagne is delicious of course, but there is much in the way of bubbles from outside the Champagne region, I mean that is just 34,300 hectares in Northeast France. There are more than 7.3 million hectares of vineyards around the globe.
Our group of wine writers will gather and share our thoughts on “Bubbles from around the World” this Saturday, January 8th. You will find links to my colleagues articles at the bottom of this post.
If you are into bubbles, please join our Twitter discussion on Saturday, January 8, 2020 at 11 am EST / 8 am PST by following the #winepw hashtag.
So we will discuss Champagne, but more than just that, we will discuss many of the other amazing sparkling wines you can find around the globe. Oh, and since this is for “Wine Pairing Weekend”, we will share with you some of our favorite pairings.
But first we should mention…
The methods of making sparkling wine!
– Wine is made then bottled with a mixture of yeast and sugar to cause a second fermentation in the bottle. The yeast releases carbon dioxide which is trapped in the bottle and creates the bubbles.
Tank Method (or Charmat)
– Wine is made and the second fermentation happens in a pressurized tank. (typically you get bigger bubbles here)
– Here fermentation is paused by chilling the wine, then after bottling that fermentation resumes trapping the CO2 in the bottle. These wines often have a crown cap rather than a cork. This was the ancient accidental way of making sparkling wine. The wine would get cold in the winter and fermentation would stop, then it would start again when things warmed up in the spring.
Now onto sparkling wines you can find around the globe!
Sparkling wine from around France made in the Traditional Method is known as Crémant. If you wanted to be specific, I suppose that when it comes from Champagne, it would be Crémant du Champagne.
While Champagne is primarily made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier (those are their primary grape varieties there), Crémant is made from the predominant locale grape varieties, Chenin Blanc in the Loire, pinot blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Auxerrois, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes in Alsace, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Poulsard, Savagnin, Pinot Gris, Poulsard, Trousseau in the Jura…you can see the variety you can find!
Brie or any double or triple crème cheese is great with crémant. Lobster pate with a Cremant de Loire of Cabernet Franc, Berries with a Rosé Cremant d’Alsace that is 100% Pinot Noir.
If you have a rosé Crémant, do the pink with pink thing! Salmon, Proscuitto, lobster, ham all will work well with the salt and the fat.
You can read more about Sparkling Rosé Cremants here!
Might be made of Pinot Blanc or Auxerrois and these Crémants are beautiful with Picnic foods, think fried chicken, macaroni and cheese. We paired them also with brie, cashews and dried mango, as well as potsticker with salty soy. Read more here.
We had an amazing sparkling wine from Montlouis-sur-Loire which sits between the Loire and Cher Rivers. Here you will hear sparkling wine spoken of as “Fine Bulles”.
In June, 2020 the Montlouis-sur-Loire AOC updated their regulations to include “Vins Mousseaux a Fermentation Unique” (source) While these wines have been described as pét-nat, you will notice a difference if you are familiar with pét-nats. These wines, according to the rules of the Montlouis-sur-Loire AOC must be disgorged, so you will see no settled lees in the bottom of your bottle.
We tasted the Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Triple Zero. The wine is 100% Chenin Blanc from 40+-year-old vines that are farmed organically. It is fermented and aged in 5-10 year oak barrels (so neutral), does not go through malolactic fermentation, and is aged on the lees for 24 months.
Cheese souffle and a salad. Be brave! Make a souffle! The feeling of accomplishment when it turns out is amazing! Do a simple salad on the side of arugula, white peach, and almonds.
Read more here.
Prosecco is made from Glera a grape in Northern Italy in the Veneto. This wine is made in the tank method, here they call it the Martinotti method. These bubble are affordable and the quality just keeps improving!
You will find the Prosecco DOC and then even higher quality wines coming from the Conegliano Valdobiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG a smaller area within the region inside the Province of Treviso. There are two additional DOCGs Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Rive DOCG made up of 43 Rive (smaller vineyards on very steep hillsides) and Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG as smaller subzone of just 108 hectares. Read more on the region here.
Well Venetian inspired is always a good way to go here, although, as with most bubbles these wines will pair widely. We suggest appetizers like sardines, almonds, figs and pears. Baccalà mantecado is a fluffy venetian spread of fish and olive oil, typically made by cooking salt cod in milk, peppercorns and bay leaf, then draining, mashing and whipping with olive oil. Serve it with toasted polenta. Try a salad with pear, walnut and radicchio or a pea and bacon risotto!
Want to range further afield for your pairing? Try pairing umami forward Long Life Noodles.
There is so much to say about Cava. This is Spanish Sparkling wine mostly from the North East of Spain. The primary varieties are Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada. It is made in the Traditional Method and quality can be very high. There is also Cava de Paraje Calificado – This is their top classification and is about .1% of production.
Some producers have splintered off and stopped using the Cava name, instead forming an organization called Corpinnat. They focus on vineyard designation, lower yields and longer aging for higher quality sparkling wine.
In 2015 a group of 9 sparkling wine producers, got together to discuss leaving the Cava DO. In 2017 they officially formed a group they named “Corpinnat” – “born in the heart of Penedes”. The 9 producers account for just 1% of Cava production, but…it’s the good stuff. 30% of the Gran Reserva wines come from these producers. The Cava de Paraje Calificado wines? They accounted for 6 of the 13 wines that had achieved this level. Read more about Cava here.
Here you can try some pairings you might otherwise shy away from. Go for Artichokes and white asparagus. Again more grows together goes together with manchego cheese, olives, almonds, and serrano ham! But you can also range further afield and try it with a Beef dzik salad, like we did!
In South Africa, Cap Classique is the name for sparkling wine that is made in the Traditional Method. You find this primarily made from Chenin Blanc as that is a primary grape here. You might see MCC or Méthode Cap Classique on the bottle.
We had a bottle of Man Family Wines Cap Classique Brut from the Agter-Paarl region where they have head trained Chenin Blanc that is dry farmed.
The nose is bright with stone fruit like white peach, green apple (think Granny Smith), lime and pear. You get sourdough from the lees. The bubbles are fine and pervasive. Read more here.
We did peaches, pears, lobster pate and sour dough bread. For something more substantial, think oysters, lobster or go back the the tuna steak and fries.
Australian Sparkling Wine
While visiting New South Wales we tasted a few sparkling wines. Some go by the name of Prosecco, even though they are not in the region. We tasted one in Mudgee from First Ridge Vineyard where they grow Italian Varieties. Read about that here.
Later we tasted had a variety of absolutely delicious sparkling wines in Orange by Swift. Here at a higher altitude they are growing traditional Champagne Grapes, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. Read more about this here.
We were spoiled with a classic pairing of oysters and champagne! You really can’t go wrong there!
Oh, there are so many here. We discussed Prosecco earlier, it is in a league of its own marketing wise, but there are so many other sparkling wines in Italy. You have Franciacorta, Asti Spumante, but we will start with..
Lambrusco is a red sparkling wine. You might remember your parents having something like this. It saw a dark period where much that was exported was not very good. That is changing.
Not too long ago we had two beautiful bottles form Bugno Martini. They are located in the region of Lombardy south of the city of Mantua. This corner of Lombardy is close to both Emillia Romagna and Veneto.
We poured one wine made in the Charmant method and another made in the Ancestral Method. Deep, wild, brambly with notes of umami, these were delicious wines.
Pizza, Chinese take-out or Riso all Pilota, a simple dish of rice and sausage that is traditional in the region. There is a link to the recipe in the article here.
Made from Moscato Bianco this wine comes from the Asti region in Northern Italy’s Piemonte.
We tasted a bottle from Saracco, whose primary vineyards are in Castiglione Tinella. The soil here is layered with sand, silt and limestone which enhances the wines aromas. The Saracco family has produced wines since the early 1900s. In the 1950 they sold their wines to the makers of Asti Spumante. In 1988 Paulo Saracco decided to start bottling their Moscato making a balanced and beautiful Moscato d’Asti.
This wine has a bit of sweetness on it with notes of orange blossom, peach & tangerine. It is low alcohol at 6%. Read more about this wine here.
We made a gorgeous stone fruit panzanella with peaches, nectarines, cherries, plums, cherry tomatoes, sourdough bread, basil and fresh mozzarella with a lemon vinaigrette!
Sekt from Germany
Did you know that the number one consumer of sparkling wine by country is Germany? They love their bubbles. They import quite a bit, but…they do make some also.
Sekt is the name for sparkling wine in both Germany and Austria. Here they look for aromas and that they get from making this bubbly from Riesling. Most grapes for sparkling wine are picked early, to keep their acid high. Riesling is a variety that retains its acid as it ripens, so these grapes can be picked riper, with more flavor to be turned into sparkling wine.
We had a Schloss Biebrich Troken. This German sparkling wine is dry and comes from the castle Biebrich, which lies on the Biebrichs Rhine front. This is a super affordable wine.
We also had a Sekt inspired wine from Randall Grahm at Bonny Doon a while back. It is a Riesling, as I mentioned made in the traditional champenoise method and finished with no dosage (no added sugar). The back label “The felicity of the pairing of this wine with Asian or fusion cuisine creates its own raison (or raisin) d’étre, indeed almost Sektual in nature.” Read more here.
Asian style foods are definitely the way to go!
American Sparkling wine
From Carneros in Napa and Sonoma to the Willamette Valley…there are quite a few sparkling wines being made in the US. This year we had the opportunity to sip some anniversary bubbles with Sokol Blosser, one of the trailblazers in the Willamette Valley. Read more about that here.
Fried Chicken and macaroni and cheese!
I have been on a Pét Nat kick lately. Pét Nat or Pétillant Naturel is a sparkling wine made in the ancestral method. These are all the rage these days. You will find them unfiltered, slightly fizzing and in all sorts of varieties. I had one recently that was of Pinot Noir and another that was a blend of Sangiovese and Montepulciano. Read about the Pét Nat of Pinot Noir here and the Pét Nat of Sangiovese/Montepulciano here.
Because these wines retain more varietal flavor, you can lean that direction.
With the Pinot Noir we knew their would be biscuity flavors as well as berry notes. Thyme and gruyere play well with Pinot so we tied this all into some delicious cheese biscuits topped with berry jam and fresh thyme.
With the Sangiovese/Montepulciano go with Italian flavors, tomatoe, mozzarella, oregano.
Beyond Pét Nat the latest fizz to emerge is perhaps one of the oldest. Piquette is a wine made from the leftover grape skins. It is what the farmers would make after making the wine. It ends up lower in alcohol and slightly effervescent.
It was popular in 19th century Europe. The idea is to take the pomace, that’s the leftover skins, seeds, stems, and pulp, from after pressing the grapes for wine and adding water. You let the mixture undergo a natural fermentation and bottle just before fermentation is complete with a crown cap to hold in the light bubbles. It only gets to about 7% abv.
The name comes from the French word for prickle, referring to the slight fizz.
You can read about the Fhuquette Rouge we had from Carhartt Family Wines here.
…with dressed-up popcorn, with parmesan, herbs, and dried berries!
No conversation of bubbles can go without mentioning Champagne. The houses here have worked hard to perfect their bubbles. I will suggest that while imbibing with some of the big houses is a wonderful thing to do, you can also look at vineyards that color a bit outside the lines. Find grower Champagne (also sometimes called Farmer Fizz).
The big houses source grapes from many vineyards. They often blend each vintage’s wine with previous vintages to create a Cuvee in the house style. They focus on giving you the same quality product year after year.
Consistency is a good thing, but I love the variation of vintages. Look to Grower Champagne where the grapes will come from a single vineyard and be made of a single vintage. These Champagnes will carry the stories of the grower and the specific soils. You will find these labeled “RM” for “Récoltant Manipulant”. Some of the large houses produce this style of wine also, so it is worth checking the label.
If you want to find a single vintage Champagne, look for the term “Vintage” on the label.
Other label terms to look for to decipher what your Champagne will be like are:
- Blanc de Blancs: which indicates champagne only made from white grapes (mostly Chardonnay)
- Cuvée Spéciale or Prestige cuvée or tête de cuvée: terms which mean that this the top of the line wine for these houses, with their finest grapes and best production techniques. This often means that the wines have been aged on their lees (or dead yeast) longer, which means more of those biscuit and brioche notes in the wine.
On Champagne Day in October of 2020, we celebrated with a bottle of Franck Bonville Blanc de Blancs
a gourmet grilled cheese with bacon, apple, honey & thyme! The other pairing was dessert of glazed donuts! Don’t laugh until you have tried it! Read more here.
On another occasion, while researching women in Champagne we tasted a Nathalie Falmet, Vigneronne Oenologue.
Nathalie Falmet was the first female oenologue in Champagne. Her label proudly lists “Champagne Nathalie Falmet, Vigneronne Oenologue. You can read more about her and other female winemakers in Champagne here
What to pair?
Ahh…with the Nathalie Falmet, we spanned the gap between elegance and comfort with caviar and crème Fraiche on a beautiful salty potato chip! Later we moved on to Lobster mac and cheese which is also an amazing pairing!
We also did a “Farmer Fizz” tasting with a stunning Pierre Peters Rosé Champagne! This Champagne is from the Côte des Blancs region and within that Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. This was their “Rosé for Albane” which adds some saignée Pinot Meunier to Chardonnay. This wine is 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Meunier. More on that here.
We paired with sushi! Sushi with its salt and umami is a great pairing for sparkling wine! When you head to cheeses, try Swiss Emmentaler, Grand Margaux, Comte, or Fourme d’Ambert (a soft creamy blue cheese)!
One last Champagne Pairing to share with you. We paired a Chartogne-Taillet with BBQ. This was an “Unexpected Pleasures” pairing early on in the pandemic (when we were all desperately looking for unexpected pleasures.
On the nose, I got white flowers, almond, yellow apple, and just a hint of bread. It was a very integrated and comforting nose. It was brighter on the palate with green apple, starfruit, and citrus.
Yep, we paired it with BBQ!
We did carry out from a local BBQ place and brisket, pulled pork, spare ribs, burnt ends…yep they all went well, but the best was the bacon and potato salad with the wine!
We have just barely scratched the surface here. If a region is growing grapes, it is likely to have found a way to make a sparkling wine also! Read on for the great sparkling wines and pairings my Colleagues dove into!
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla sabers open Gelukkige Nuwe Jaar with Pannekoeke + Boschendal Brut Rosé
- Linda from My Full Wine Glass cracks open Cava: Because everybody needs a go-to bubbly
- Martin at Enofylz Wine Blog pops the cork on Sparkling Wine from Chablis? Oui! Val de Mer Brut Nature Rosé
- Anna Maria of Unraveling Wine toasts us with 10 Best Greek Sparkling Wines with Pairings #WinePW
- David at Cooking Chat Food disgorges Baked Fiesta Dip with Mexican Bubbly
- Jennifer of Vino Travels charms with Upcoming the Game with Asolo Prosecco
- Lisa at The Wine Chef adds dosage with Dive Into the OG Bubbly With Blanquette de Limoux #WinePW
- Nicole at Somm’s Table gets cagey with Re-introducing Cava!
- Gwendolyn from Wine Predator adds the crown with Sparkling Wine Secrets from Around the World
- Susannah from Avvinare sparkles with Brazilian sparklers come of age
- Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm remembers Celebrating Little Christmas in Michigan with a local bubbly #WinePW
- Andrea The Quirky Cork celebrates with A Vertical Tasting of Vinkara’s Yaşasın #WinePW
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.