Over the years, my tastes have changed enormously.
I remember back in college when my primary taste was cheap or free!
Who am I kidding? I’ll still give your party a once over if I know you’ll be serving great free food.
Where I think I’ve noticed a particular change is when we’re hosting a party and want a little sparkle to our drinks.
Growing up, I’m sure you remember the option was champagne or apple cider – the alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions. Recently, however, I’ve found a new favorite.
I first saw prosecco in Costco. One of the sales associates were “suggesting” that we give it a try. So I did. Since then, prosecco and I have become fast friends.
Behind the Bubbles
Even if you do not know the difference between Champagne and Prosecco, you have probably used sparkling bubbles to mark some sort of occasion. As you raise your glass in a toast, you may wonder what the story is behind this internationally beloved beverage.
The Myth Behind the Name
How did sparkling wine come to be? Legend has it that Monk Dom Perignon unknowingly bottled and stored wine containing dormant yeast. When the summer months came, the yeast reactivated with the heat and began converting sugar into alcohol. With no place to escape, the carbon dioxide by-product was trapped in the bottle, giving a sparkling wine its famous bubbles. Ever since then, sparkling wine has taken over the globe. While the circumstances are almost certainly a myth, the story contains the basics of the traditional sparkling wine making process.
What’s in a Name?
Even if you’re far from a sommelier, you’re probably aware of the drama behind the term “champagne.” The French winemakers guard the term jealously and only sparkling wine made in the Champagne region can legally use this name; even sparkling wine made in another French region doesn’t qualify. However, Champagne is a sparkling wine and not all sparkling wine is Champagne.
Prosecco is Italy’s answer to Champagne, and Sekt hails from Germany. Cava sparkles out of Spain, and the Portuguese are responsible for Espumante. New World producers like the United States, Australia, Chile and others also have their own versions. It’s all sparkling wine, but the term used varies by region.
The Levels of Sweetness
Generally, sparkling wine is organized into four categories of sweetness:
- Demi-sec: In comparison to the following categories, this is the sweetest sparkling wine. As a result, it is most often paired with dessert.
- Extra dry: This category is noticeably sweet, but not in a sugary fashion. It has dry elements, but they are not extremely robust. Prosecco is usually part of this category.
- Brut: Easily the most popular, brut wines are noticeably dry with just a touch of sweetness. Champagne is most often labeled as brut.
- Extra-brut: This is the driest sparkling wine available as the yeast has consumed all sugar.
Next time you go wine shopping, pick a sparkling wine at a sweetness level you think will suit your palette. Enjoy the bubbles and take full advantage of a happy monk’s brilliant mistake. Before you know it, you’ll be identifying flavor notes and pairing cheeses.