Updated: Dec 28, 2020
This Sparkling Wine Guide gives you highlights for French Champagne, Spanish Cava, Italian Prosecco, and US Sparkling Wine.
Sparkling wine is known as a celebratory beverage and comes with many names. The most infamous is Champagne. As we approach the ultimate night for Champagne – New Year’s Eve of course – let’s find out more about these bubblies and decide which one (or two) is best to showcase at your party.
Types of Sparkling Wine and Its Regions
Sparkling wine is the overarching name for carbonated wine. You can find wineries around the world producing this celebratory wine style.
American Sparkling Wine
Called sparkling wine in the States, you will find some delicious bottles out of California, Oregon, and New York. I’ve even had some exceptional sparkling wine right here in Illinois (if you can believe it) from the Illinois Sparkling Company. Their sparkling was even used to christen the USS Illinois in 2015.
The matriarch of the sparklings is Champagne which hails from a region in Northern France that goes by the same name. There are strict rules governing what can be called Champagne and it can only come from this region.
Champagne is made with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes. When called blanc de blanc (white of whites), this means it’s produced using 100% Chardonnay grapes (white grapes). When called blanc de noir (white from blacks), this means it uses the black (red) grapes of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier but removes the skins right away in order to keep the juice white in color. Rosé Champagne is produced by leaving the wine juice on the skins of the black or red grapes for just long enough to give that nice pink or Rosé color.
Cava is a sparkling wine produced in Catalonia, Spain just west of Barcelona. Three local white grape varieties are used to make Spanish Cava: Macabeo, Xarel-lo, and Parellada. If you are looking for top-quality sparkling wine at a great value, then look no further. Cava will be your new go-to!
Prosecco is a sparkling wine produced in Northern Italy and made primarily with a white grape variety called Prosecco or also called Glera. This is a very popular sparkling wine in the US and you can find it at affordable prices.
Sweetness Terminology Explained
This is the part that gets the most confusing. There is a range of names that identify the sweetness levels in sparkling wine, but the designation all depends on the country using the terminology. Keep in mind that Brut is the most popular. Here is a terminology cheat sheet for you.
What to Pair with Sparkling Wine
Opening up a sparkling wine at the beginning of your gathering is a great way to kick things off. James Suckling (wine critic) loves to start his dinner parties with a nice bubbly. He says, “It’s fresh, bubbly, and it’s the right thing to do.” I love that sentiment.
Start out by serving your sparkling along-side a charcuterie and cheese tray. It pairs well with a variety of foods too. Try pairing with seafood and chicken that are lightly seasoned. You can even pair a sparkling that has some sweetness (Extra Dry or Sec) with spicy foods, as some sweetness balances out the spicy heat of the food and vice versa. And finally, a sweet (Demi-Sec or Doux) sparkling pairs very well with desserts.
How to Serve a Sparkling Wine
Opening a bottle of the bubbly stuff can be a bit unnerving, but with the right technique, you can keep it all under control. Just follow these steps:
Chill to about 45-degrees Fahrenheit.
Take off the foil wrapper from around the cork.
Remove the wire cage by turning the wire tab counterclockwise 6 half turns and remove it from the bottle.
Wrap your hand around the cork with your thumb on top.
Hold the bottle at a 45-degree angle.
With your free (dominant) hand grasp the bottom of the bottle and turn it slowly while holding the cork firmly.
The cork should slowly start to ease out of the bottle until you hear a slight hiss sound.
This method will keep the bubbly in the bottle and prevent any cork mayhem.
Serve the Sparkling Wine in Champagne flutes. The tall bowl of the flutes allows the bubbles more distance to float to the top, giving a beautiful presentation. If you don’t have any flutes, then white wine glasses will work just as well.
Or, for a dramatic flair, you could open your Champagne with a Sword. It’s called Sabrage. (If you happen to have a sword, don’t try this. Unless you also happen to have a professional, then Sabrage away. And take a video! We want to see this.)
Popular Brands for Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, and US Sparkling
You’ll likely recognize some of these top-selling brands of sparkling wine.
Popular French Champagne Brands
Bollinger Louis Roederer Cristal (pictured) Dom Pérignon Moët & Chandon Taittinger Veuve Clicquot
Popular Spanish Cava Brands
Agustí Torelló Mata (Kripta pictured) Cava Guilera Codorníu* Freixenet* Gramona Juvé & Camps
Not all Cava bottles look like this. This one is just super cool looking! 🙂
Popular Italian Prosecco Brands
Da Luca La Marca Mionetto (pictured) Ruffino
Popular American Sparkling Wine Brands
Domaine Carneros Domaine Chandon Gloria Ferrer (Carneros Cuvee pictured) Iron Horse J Vineyards Korbel Mumm Napa Roederer Estate Schramsberg
Summary: Sparkling Wine Guide
There are quite a variety of sparklers to explore from traditional Champagne to the more affordable Cava and Prosecco. Any of these are crowd-pleasers will turn your party into a celebration.
Ready to find out the best affordable bubbly? Just jump on over to this post: 9 Sparkling Wines under $30 Rated 90+.