Just mention the word “bubbles” and your eyes start to sparkle! It must also be said that sparkling wines are often associated with festive occasions. But not all bubbles are created equal, and when it comes time to choose a bottle, it’s best to know a little about what you want.
Here is what you need to know about sparkling wines in order to choose them without breaking the bank.
What is a sparkling wine?
A sparkling wine, or an effervescent wine, is simply a wine that contains carbon dioxide, also called CO2. It is thanks to this gas that there are bubbles and foam. Sparkling wines are opposed to other wines which are called “still wines”.
Among the types of sparkling wines, we find of course the champagne but also cavas, proseccos as well as crémants.
The famous champagne
Champagne is an unavoidable reference in sparkling wines, it is obvious. But its price can unfortunately leave some bitter bubbles stuck in the throat. “Champagne enjoys a great reputation, but one should not believe that there is ONLY Champagne that is worth the price. There are excellent sparkling wines produced in California, for example, or in Italy or Spain,” explains Jack Grimaudo, head sommelier and director of operations at Montreal’s Europea restaurant.
Champagne is indeed considered the best of the sparkling wines, but your personal taste might make you appreciate a cava or a blanquette de Limoux or an American sparkling wine even more. The world of sparkling wines is big, you have to be curious.
Champagne has such a reputation that it is associated with any festive event (graduation, wedding, birthday, purchase of a house…). The consequence is that some people come to think that if they don’t buy champagne, but another sparkling wine, they will look a bit “cheap”. However, other sparkling wines are not cheap party wines!
Price is not everything.
What counts above all is to enjoy a sparkling wine that you like, that suits you and that you can find at reasonable prices. The occasion will also condition the choice.
Choose your sparkling wine according to the occasion… and to taste
When entertaining, for a drink or to celebrate a special event, sparkling wines are often the first choice. Wines can be selected according to the occasion, the food that will be served at the same time and your personal taste.
Depending on the occasion, you won’t drink the same type of sparkling wine,” continues head sommelier Jack Grimaudo. Some people like to take a more typical sparkling wine for an aperitif, more acidic, with a persistent bubble that fills the mouth well, others prefer something more fleshy, denser.”
Sparkling wine, sparkling wine and pearl wine: the differences
One of the criteria that you should take into account when choosing your bottle is its type of effervescence. In fact, there are three types of effervescence: sparkling wine such as Champagne or Crémant, sparkling wine such as Lambrusco, and sparkling wine such as Savoy wines. There is no one type of effervescence that is “better” than the others. Here again, it’s all a matter of taste and occasion. So, taste and you will know.
Extra-brut, brut, extra-dry, dry, semi-dry… sweet?
Another criterion to consider is the sugar content of the wine. Depending on whether it is higher or lower, the taste will be radically changed. Newcomers often go for sweet or semi-dry wines, which are more accessible than brut wines. Here are the types of sparkling wines according to a website.
Brut (0 to 3 g per liter) Extra-brut (0 to 6 g per liter) Brut (0 to12 g per liter) Extra dry (12 to17 g per liter) Dry (17 to 32 g per liter) Semi-dry (32 to 50 g per liter) Sweet (more than 50 g per liter)
How to choose: taste and remember
The best way to find out which sparkling wine is right for you is to taste different ones!
Of course, you can’t go to the SAQ and have them open every bottle of sparkling wine to taste them and find out which ones you like best. But if you don’t know where to start, you can rely on expert recommendations found in guides such as the Phaneuf 2021 wine guide.
Otherwise, when you have the opportunity, whether at a wedding, birthday party or in-store tasting, drink sparkling wine and focus on the taste. Do you like the way it bubbles? Is it too sweet for you? Not sweet enough?
The more sparkling wines you taste, the more you will refine your palate and know precisely your tastes. If you have a good memory, memorize the wines in your head, if not, don’t hesitate to write down the references of the bottles you test on your phone or on a piece of paper.