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December 10, 2021

Sparkling Wine 101

Greetings and happy holidays! 🥂

The holiday season brings so many reasons to celebrate, and what’s better than a celebratory toast of sparkling wine with our loved ones? It’s super easy to find a sparkling wine your friends and family will all enjoy. But first, let's go over some of the basics of sparkling wine! 

Will it be sweet or dry?

There are different levels of sweetness in sparkling wine, as there is in still wine. The bottle will be a clear indicator of how sweet (or dry) the wine will be, as the label should have one of the following terms:

Extra Brut - very dry, very low amount of residual sugar, 0 - 6 g/L
Brut - dry, a little more sugar, but not sweet at all, 0 - 12 g/L
Extra Dry - not quite sweet, not quite dry, 12 - 17 g/L
Dry - a little sweet! 17 - 32 g/L
Demi-Sec - getting sweeter!! 32 - 50 g/L
Doux - bring on the dessert!! 50+ g/L

Depending on the occasion and the food you are serving with the wine, you’ll now be able to select the perfect sparkler to suit everyone’s tastes!

How do those bubbles get in there?!

Sparkling wine gets its sparkle (or bubbles) from carbon dioxide (CO2) which is created during a second fermentation process of the wine. This is induced when sugar and yeast are added to the wine during the second fermentation which occurs under pressure, creating CO2. Let’s go over the 2 most popular methods for creating sparkling wine.

Traditional Method (Methode Champenoise)
A still wine is created and then bottled, and yeast and sugar is added to the bottle. The bottle is the sealed with a crown cap. Under that seal, the yeast ferments sugar into alcohol until dry, creating CO2. The sparkling wine then ages in that bottle in contact with the dead yeast (lees). This lees contact can create wonderful richness and notes of brioche and toast. Yum!

Tank Method (Charmant Method)
The difference between tank method and traditional method is the secondary fermentation happens in a pressurized tank, where as traditional method fermentation happens in the bottle. Another difference is that tank method sparkling wine is not stored on its lees, creating a more fruit forward wine. A perfect example of a tank method sparkling wine would be Prosecco. 


Did you know?

Sparkling wine was not made intentionally…. At first. In the Champagne region of France, the cold winter season would halt the fermentation process of wine in the cellar. As winter turned to spring and temperatures increased, the wine began the fermentation process again which created carbon dioxide gas bubbles!) inside the bottles. All of that pressure from the gas led to exploding bottles and popping corks, and some really ticked off winemakers! What was once considered a fault in wine, is now what we know as sparkling wine today.

Here are a few of my personal sparkling wine recommendations, which can be found on Vinebase!



Jessica Morse

About the author
Jessica Morse is an enthusiastic wine drinker and wine industry professional residing in Paso Robles, CA. She is loves wine education and is WSET Level 2 Certified and American Wine Expert Certified. You can find Jessica’s micro wine blog on Instagram at @glow.and.vino and also hang out with her at the winery she works at in Paso Robles! 

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