Other than the obvious differences between the U.S. vs. French/Italian custom of wine consumption (they drink it daily with every meal while we only drink 1-2X per week – if at all) there is also one additional, major difference: They drink sparkling wine more frequently than we do.
The American culture doesn’t regard sparkling wine as a commonly consumed wine unless it’s a special occasion. I think this is a bit sad. While I understand how fun and festive those beautiful little bubbles are, isn’t EVERYDAY a day to be celebrated? I would love to see more people drink bubbly as a way of celebrating a day of being healthy, alive and loved. Especially at the end of a torturous work week. I dare anyone to open a bottle of Champagne and not be instantly transported to happyville. 🙂
So I dub this post as the blog dedicated to all of the different types of sparking wines (Champagne isn’t the only one, as fab as it is).
To keep it simple, I have these broken down by country in the event you want to purchase or order a flute of fizzy fun the next time you’re out…
Champage: Ahhhhh yesssssss. The undeniable master of sparkling wine. This is the name given to sparkling wines from the Champagne region of France. Occasionally you might find a bottle of something labeled as “Champagne” but if it doesn’t say it was produced in Champagne, France – then it’s not authentic Champagne.
This French sparking wine is composed almost always from chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes, and typically has a dry, complex flavor.
Prosecco: This is the name of an Italian grape and the sparkling wine it creates. Meant to be served quite cold, Prosecco is noted for its naturally dry characteristics and slightly bitter aftertaste. While wonderful on its own, Prosecco is also the main ingredient to a fantastic summery cocktail, the Bellini. Invented in the 1940’s and boasting a cheery pink color, the Bellini is a fruity and fizzy mix of two parts Prosecco and one part peach puree (Champagne is also commonly used as a Prosecco replacement).
Asti: The very first sparkling wine I ever had at the age of 18! Italy is well known for another sparkling wine. Asti spumante is made from the super sweet moscato bianco grape, also used in Moscat wine. Due to the sugar content in the grape, Asti spumanti has a delicate sweetness and is a fantastic complement to cheese, fruit, or desserts.
Cava: Cava was invented during the dreadful plague that destroyed much of the European grape vines in the 19th century, using hardy strains of white grape. Available in dry, medium and sweet versions, the drink is traditional in Spanish celebrations like baptisms. Cava pairs wonderfully with traditional Spanish food and can add a new level of authenticity to Spanish foods such as paella and gazpacho.
Cracking the code on whether or not a sparking wine is sweet or dry:
If the bottle says…
Brut Natural, Brut Nature, or Brut Zero: It has less then 3 grams per liter of residual sugar and are considered dry.
Extra-Brut: This has up to 6 grams per liter of residual sugar and still taste dry but are richer and fruiter than Brut Zeros.
Brut: This has up to 15 grams per liter of residual sugar and can begin to be noticeably sweet although it’s still considered to be fairly dry.
Extra Sec, Extra Seco, or Extra Dry: These have 12-20 grams of sugar per liter. These wines are a bit sweeter as they tend to the upper end of their range.
Sec or Seco: These have have between 17-35 grams of sugar per liter and are noticeably sweet.
Demi-Sec or Semi-Seco: These have between 33-50 grams per liter and are fairly sweet though the bottom end of the range still produces wines that can seem dry to the most sugar tolerant.
Doux or Dolce: These have at least 50 grams of sugar per liter and are exactly what they claim to be: Sweet.