Most wine consumers have a more or less precise idea of the method of making a still wine. On the other hand, regarding sparkling wine, the winemaking technique remains more enigmatic, and many wonder where its refreshing little bubbles come from. Discover the method of making sparkling wine .
What is sparkling wine?
Before looking at the method of making sparkling wine , let's try to define these wines which are classified in the category of sparkling wines.
Sparkling wines, as opposed to still wines, contain carbon dioxide (CO2). This takes the form of more or less large bubbles detectable by the tongue, or by a nice foam formed in the glass during serving.
Depending on the level of CO2 contained in the bottle, there are 3 categories of sparkling wines :
- Sparkling wine : 1 to 2 grams of CO2 per liter;
- Sparkling wine : 2 to 4 grams of CO2 per liter;
- Sparkling wine : more than 4 grams of CO2 per liter.
So, when we talk about sparkling wine, we are referring to one of the different categories of sparkling wine.
Good to know: below 1 gram of CO2 per liter, we enter the category of still wines.
Sparkling wine, a wine that is not just champagne
Sparkling wine is, rightly, often compared to champagne. Indeed, champagne is one of the sparkling wines , but there are many other sparkling wines.
Indeed, if champagne is only made in the wine region of the same name, other wine regions in France and around the world produce sparkling wines. We then know the famous Asti or Prosecco, straight from Italy, or the different crémants from France, Clairette de Die, sparkling Vouvray, Cerdon…
Generally speaking, each sparkling wine is associated with a particular winemaking technique and an appellation area. These specificities are then mentioned in the specifications of the wine in question.
Making sparkling wine: the traditional method
To make sparkling wines , producers and winemakers practice what is called the taking foam method . There are several versions, but the most traditional remains the champenoise method , applicable only in the Champagne appellation area. Winegrowers around the world can also choose this traditional manufacturing method, but only Champagne winegrowers have the right to mention it on the label of the wine bottle.
Technically, the traditional method of taking mousse consists of carrying out a second fermentation in the bottle. Thus, a still wine undergoes a first alcoholic fermentation, then the addition of a drawing liquor ensures the second fermentation in the bottle. This liqueur contains:
- Sugar ;
- A stirring aid.
It is during this second fermentation that the transformation of sugar into alcohol releases carbon dioxide. This remains trapped in the bottle and spreads into the wine, forming an effervescent wine.
Other steps follow, but now we know how the little bubbles appear in our delicious sparkling wines.
Other vinification techniques for sparkling wines
If the Champagne method is the most traditional, but also the most used, there are other techniques for making sparkling wine.
- The ancestral method : the wine is bottled without waiting for the end of the first alcoholic fermentation. It therefore continues its process in the bottle, which also produces carbon dioxide, and therefore bubbles;
- The gasification method : the winemaker adds gas to a bottle of still wine;
- The Dioise method : a technique specific to the production of Clairette de Die, in the Drôme Valley;
- The Russian method : a technique which owes its name to the mythical “Soviet champagne”;
- The transfer method …
Learn to read a sparkling wine bottle label
The labels on bottles of sparkling wine do not carry the same information as the labels on bottles of still wine. This can be annoying when you want to choose a sparkling wine in store, at the wine merchant or in an online wine store.
We have seen what differentiates a sparkling wine from a sparkling wine and a sparkling wine, now let's discover the different sugar levels of sparkling wines.
- Natural brut wine : it contains between 0 and 3 grams of sugar per liter;
- Extra-brut wine : it contains 0 to 6 grams of sugar per liter;
- Brut wine : it contains 0 to 12 grams of sugar per liter;
- Extra-dry wine : it contains 12 to 17 grams of sugar per liter;
- Dry wine : it contains 17 to 32 grams of sugar per liter;
- Semi-dry wine : it contains 32 to 50 grams of sugar per liter;
- Sweet wine : it contains more than 50 grams of sugar per liter.
The different sparkling wines of France
If France is recognized throughout the world for its rosé wines, red wines and white wines, it is not left out with sparkling wines, and winegrowers prove their know-how in several French wine regions.
Champagne sparkling wine
Champagne is undoubtedly the best-known sparkling wine in the world , and represents no less than a third of French wine exports each year.
The Champagne vineyard is then divided into 3 white and black grape varieties: pinot-meunier, pinot noir and chardonnay.
If most champagne wines are produced as a blend of these different grape varieties, it is also possible to find single-varietal champagnes. Thus, a champagne produced only with chardonnay is called a “blanc de Blancs”. As for champagnes made from red grape varieties, they are called “blancs de noirs”. Rosé champagne vintages are also made from red grape varieties.
Good to know: Pinot Noir, known for bringing elegance and acidity to champagne, is the only grape variety authorized to produce a Grand Cru Champagne noir de noirs.
The different crémants of France
The crémant appellation , unlike champagne, is found in many French vineyards. It is attributed to white wines and sparkling rosé wines made using the traditional method . Each of the Crémants has its own characteristics, drawn from the grape variety (Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, etc.) and the terroir. We then distinguish 7 crémants in France :
- Crémant d’Alsace;
- Crémant de Bourgogne;
- Crémant de Bordeaux;
- Crémant de Die;
- Crémant du Jura;
- Crémant de Limoux;
- Crémant de Loire.
The different sparkling wines of the Loire Valley
The Loire Valley is particularly recognized for its two emblematic sparkling wines of the region: Vouvray and Montlouis .
These two twin vineyards, located opposite each other and separated by the Loire, produce dry, semi-dry, sweet and sweet sparkling wines. These fresh and fruity wines are made from Chenin Blanc, a white grape variety widely used in this region of France.
The different sparkling rosé wines of Provence
If Provence is known for its still rosé wines, it also produces very good sparkling rosé wines which have been very successful in recent years.
The Berne estate offers Berne Brut Nature , a fresh and festive sparkling rosé, ideal for an aperitif. Château Saint-Roux also stands out with itsorganic sparkling rosé wine La Guinguette , a fresh and dynamic vintage to be enjoyed as an aperitif or dessert.You now know all the secrets of making sparkling wine which will help you choose a good bottle. Don’t hesitate to discover what French winegrowers do best, starting with the sparkling rosé wines of Provence!