The Fascinating History of Sparkling Wine
What is Sparkling Wine?
One of the favorite sounds around here is the POP of a cork. The sound has come to be associated with joy and celebration and almost always ends in a good time. Given as a gift or used to ring in the New Year, Champagnes or Sparkling Wines are loved the world round! Sparkling wines are categorized as wines made effervescent by carbon dioxide gas, introduced artificially or produced naturally by secondary fermentation, and are mostly available in whites and roses, with a few exceptions.
How did Sparkling Wine & Champagne come to be?
There are several different versions when it comes to the legends of the origin of Champagne. The one we liked the best was the one of Dom Perignon. Legend says that Dom Perignon was a monk in the 1600’s who had been put in charge of his monestary’s vines. He took great care and pride in creating perfect wines that even the King had taken a liking to. While making a batch of white wines, it is said that he had checked the fermentation barrels and was happy that the process of sugar to alcohol had been completed so he began to bottle the wine. However, unbeknownst to the monk, the temperature within the region had dropped low enough that the yeast had actually gone dormant, not completing the fermentation process. When spring had sprung and the weather warmed, the CO2 was absorbed by the wine in the bottles, carbonating it. When Dom Perignon went to check on his wine he encountered corks popping all around him! What a glorious sound! He began to taste these wines and loved them! And so, Champagne was born.
What is the difference between Champagne and Sparkling Wine?
All Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is champagne. Champagne, the most popular of the sparkling wines must originate in the Champagne region of France and is made using a specific, traditional process called Méthode Champenoise. Only three grape varieties may be used to make Champagne: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.
Other popular sparkling wines include Prosecco and Cava.
Prosecco is an Italian wine controlled by DOC or DOCG. Under these wine laws, Prosecco can be spumante (“sparkling wine”), frizzante (“semi-sparkling wine”), or tranquillo (“still wine”). … Prosecco DOC is produced in nine provinces spanning the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions.
The Spanish word cava (feminine, plural cavas, although Cava the wine is masculine) means “cave” or “cellar,” as caves were used in the early days of cava production for the preservation or aging of wine. Spanish winemakers officially adopted the term in 1970 to distinguish their product from French champagne.
The cost of Champagne vs. Other Sparkling Wines
There can be a vast difference in prices when it comes to actual Champagne in comparison to Proseccos and Cavas. In fact, according to a report on the website Finances Online, Champagne can be VERY expensive! They list the top 10 most expensive bottles of Champagne in 2019:
2013 Taste of Diamonds – $2.07 million
2013 Armand de Brignac Rose 30-Liter Midas – $275,000
2011 Armand de Brignac 15-Liter – $90,000
1996 Dom Perignon Rose Gold Methuselah – $49,000
1820 Juglar Cuvee – $43,500
1959 Dom Perignon – $42,350
1841 Veuve Clicquot – $34,000
1928 Krug – $21,200
Louis Roederer, Cristal Brut 1990 Millennium Cuvee Methuselah – $18,800
Shipwrecked Champagne – average of $14,181.81 per bottle
Some of our favorite Prosecco’s run just around $20 a bottle! Quite a contrast!
Categories for Sparkling Wines
Whether you are talking about an actual Champagne, or any other sparkling wine, you will find them labeled by sweetness. There are four very common levels:
This is the driest kind of sparkling wine you can buy. In this type of sparkler, the yeast has eaten absolutely all of the sugar, so there is a complete absence of it in the wine.
This is the most popular type of sparkling wine. The wine is dry, but there is just a hint of sweetness. In this sparkler, the winemaker stopped the fermentation process just before the yeast ate all of the sugar, leaving a tiny amount behind in the wine. Champagne is the most common sparkler to be labeled Brut.
This type of sparkler is dry, but not as dry as Brut or Extra-Brut, meaning it retains a slight sweetness. It’s not sugary sweet, although they are noticeably sweeter than Brut wines. Prosecco is most often Extra Dry.
This is a sweet sparkling wine. One would usually drink Demi-sec with dessert, as there is a prevalent amount of noticeable sugar.
Fun Facts about Sparkling Wines
We found more than a few fun facts in our search for the interesting quirks and legends that come along with sparkling wines. Here are a few we thought were pretty great!
- Did you know that a cork can travel upwards of 25 miles per hour?? In fact, in the early days of production, when they hadn’t yet controlled this happening unexpectedly, the men who worked in the cellars began to wear iron helmets to protect themselves!
- Sparkling wines weren’t originally enjoyed in a flute. Although the flute will keep your bubbles bubbling longer, the traditional wide mouthed rounded coupe glass will allow you to smell and savor the wine’s aromas.
- Did you know that Marilyn Monroe once took a bath in Champagne?!? It took 350 bottles to fill her tub!
And last, but CERTAINLY NOT least
- You’re more likely to be killed by a stray Champagne cork than by being bitten by a poisonous spider.