Sparkling wines are not all created equal. Just like reds and whites, sparkling wines are made from many different grapes from just as many regions around the world, each with their own defining technique and style. Get to know your bubbles by learning about these main types of sparkling wines.
Types of Sparkling Wines From Around the World
Sparkling wine encompasses everything from Champagne to pét-nats to cava. And while they are all bubbles, they each have their own distinct method of production and flavor profile. Here's your bubble break-down.
When it comes to sparkling wines, the most common type of bubbles people usually think of is Champagne. Thought of as la crème de la crème of the bubbles, Champagne is made in the Champagne region of France using the méthode champenoise or the méthode traditionelle. It can be made using only chardonnay as a blanc de blanc, or with a blend of pinot noir and pinot meaner to create a blanc de noir.
Champagne can be single vintage or non vintage (NV) and made in a variety of styles from sweet to dry (brut to demi sec). While Champagne can take on different flavor profiles depending on the grapes and vintage, it typically has aromas of apple, pear, and fresh baked bread. On the palate, it has notes of tart apple, citrus, pear, cream, and brioche with tight acidity.
Cava is Spain's premier sparkling wine. Made using the méthode traditionelle, cava can be made all over Spain, though it most often comes from Catalonia. Xarel·lo, macabeo, and parellada are the grapes used in the production of cava. A real bargain, cava delivers delicious, flavorful bubbles at a much more affordable price than Champagne. It's most often made in a dry style with notes of lemon, fresh apple, quince, marzipan, and pear.
Prosecco is Italy's widely distributed, go-to bubbly wine from the Northwest corner of the country, specifically the lush hills of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia. Unlike Champagne and cava, prosecco is made using a slightly less intensive method called the charmat method. It's made with the glera grape, which is thin-skinned, fresh, and aromatic.
Prosecco tends to have larger, lazier bubbles and errs on the sweeter side with a tinge of residual sugar. Full of fresh aromas of green apple, lemon peel, green melon, honeysuckle and fresh cream, it's fruity and floral and typically less complex due to the lack of autolysis and aging.
Crémant is French sparkling wine made using the méthode traditionelle, but it can be made in any region of France using a wide variety of grapes. Each region has more specific regulations, but crémant is a great way to explore different expressions of grapes and terroir in bubble form.
Crémant d'Alsace is widely available and is made with pinot blanc, auxerrois, pinot gris, riesling, and chardonnay. It tastes of toasted apple with hints of tropical fruit and buttery brioche. Crémant de Loire is also popular. Made primarily with chenin blanc grapes in a dry style, it has notes of pear, quince, lemon, chamomile, honey, and great minerality. Crémant de Bourgogne is made with both chardonnay and pinot noir and can be bright and crisp with delicate red fruit notes or lean and more full-bodied.
Espumante is Portugal's sparkling wine made from arinto grapes in Bairrada using the méthode traditionelle. Bairrada's proximity to the Atlantic results in high-acid, zesty, fizzy wines. While these bubbles may be a little less commonly found on the bottle shop shelves, they are worth buying if you find them. Unique, with notes of ripe tropical fruit, tart apple, citrus zest, and white blossom, they are as refreshing as it gets.
A bubbly wine from Germany and Austria, sekt has been around a long time, but the bulk of it has only gotten really good recently. Sekt can be made in any region and is most often done using the charmat method. There are different tiers of sekt, with the more complex iterations being made using the méthode traditionelle.
Because riesling is king in these parts, much of the sekt you'll find is rieslingsekt. These are highly aromatic expressions with brilliant acid, orchard fruit of yellow apple and pear, citrus zest, biscuit, and honey. Look for a dry sekt to get all the punchy flavor without the cloying sweetness.
Italy's other bubby, franciacorta comes from the northern region of Lombardy and is made using the méthode traditionelle. Primarily made with chardonnay, with some pinot nero and pinot bianco, it has a real richness to it while retaining racy acidity and structure.
It's generally sharper than its kid sister, prosecco, with notes of peach, lemon, white cherry, and complex aromas and texture of marzipan and toast. Elegant, floral, and full, these bubbles are worth searching out.
The oldest and most traditional style of bubbles, pétillant naturel or pét-nats can be made from anywhere with any combination of grapes just as long as it's done in the méthode ancestrale. Unlike the other bubbles, this method only goes through one fermentation. The bubbles can be a bit unpredictable, with some that will threaten to blow the crown cap off your bottle and others just giving up a gentle fizz in your glass.
Given the wide range of grapes and terroirs involved, it's impossible to nail down a specific flavor profile, but they do typically have a cloudy and textured nature due to the lack of filtering. They also tend to be lower in alcohol compared to other sill and sparkling wines.
Choosing Your Bubbles
These main types of sparkling wines from around the world represent a handful of grapes, techniques, terroirs, and flavor profiles. To find your perfect match, try a sparkling wine line-up and see where your palate falls.