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Sparkling wine is (arguably) the most technical wine in the world. What makes the stuff so technical is that it undergoes not just one fermentation (to make the alcohol) but a second fermentation to make bubbles! Throughout the entire winemaking process, the winemaker has a lot of choices to make that will greatly affect the way the final wine tastes. And this is how we’ve come to discover sparkling wine’s many styles.
Sparkling wine made with this style come out tasting lean with flavors of flowers, fresh apple, tropical fruit, lime and lemon zest. Wines tend to be light and zippy in the palate. The technique is called reductive winemaking and the ideology behind this method is to preserve as much of the floral and fruit character of the wine as possible. This means less oxygen is introduced during the winemaking process–this is where the term reductive comes from.
Wine style produced with this method are as follows:
Dry, Lean & Zesty:
Dry and zesty wines are made with non-aromatic grapes like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They also typically come from the coolest climate wine regions. To be dry, they have the least amount of sweetness added during dosage and are typically labeled as Brut (see all sparkling wine sweetness levels). Some wines that fall into this category:
It is light in taste, these wines have more floral and fruit notes typically from the grapes that have been blended into the wine. For example, the region of Franciacorta in Italy blends Pinot Grigio into their wine resulting in a fruitier (like white peaches!) flavor. You’ll also tend to find this style made in warmer climate growing regions, such as Sonoma, California. Here are some examples:
Sweet & Perfumed:
Sweet sparkling wines are either sweetened during the dosage portion of winemaking or are made with aromatic grapes like Muscat (aka Moscato). If the wine is sweetened by the dosage, it will be labeled with one of the several terms for sweet:
Sparkling wines made with this style come out tasting rich and creamy with flavors of toast, brioche, yellow apple, honeycomb and sometimes hazelnut. This style is made with a technique often referred to as autolytic or oxidative winemaking. The ideology behind this particular method is to enhance the wine with the qualities of aging.
Wines produced with this method are ‘Rich, Creamy & Nutty’. The autolytic sparkling wines are a more expensive process in terms of time and resources, which is why they tend to cost more (although great values can be found!). Seek out wines with an “extended tirage” which means they’ve rested on their lees a long time. This helps add to the creaminess. Then, look into the wine’s production. Many of the nuttiest sparkling wines are fermented in oak barrels.