A Comprehensive Guide to Sparkling Wine

Sparkling wine hits a certain sweet spot in many wine enthusiasts’ hearts. There’s just something about the fizzy, effervescent quality of it that brings about a sense of celebration, festivity, and cheer. From celebrations to birthday parties, business events, and even romantic dinners, sparkling wines are a top choice for many occasions.

It’s a common misconception to call all sparkling wine Champagne, and we’re here to help you decipher the different sparkling wines. By the end of our guide, you’ll be fully up to date on some of our favorite sparkling wines, what foods go well with them, and also learn a little about the grape varietals too.

Want to learn more? We also have guides on red wine, white wine, rosé wine and dessert wine too. Check those out if you’re curious about other types of wine!

So How Is Sparkling Wine Made?

Sparkling wine is a luxurious, bubbly drink that can lighten up many situations. As a symbol of celebration, prestige, and joy, it's no secret that sparkling wines have some of the most loyal fans out there. Fun fact: there is a myth about the “discovery” of sparkling wine, which was completely unintentional.

Back in the 1600s in the Champagne wine region of France, famed winemaker Dom Perignon accidentally bottled some white wine from his family vineyard a tad too early. His rationale was that he believed the yeasts had finished converting the sugars to alcohol, but in reality the yeasts had just gone dormant from the low temperatures of the region.

In the spring, these yeasts began working their magic again, and began a delayed fermentation of sugar to alcohol. This delay and premature bottling started producing carbon dioxide in the bottle, which eventually was absorbed by the wine. Much to Dom Perignon’s surprise, the corks on his white wine bottles had began popping off on their own.

Thus, sparkling wine was born!

The Process of Making Sparkling Wine

There are several ways that sparkling wines are made in the modern world, but we’ll focus on the broad strokes that most winemakers take during production.

  1. Grapes are picked, and the base wine, or “cuvée” is fermented. In this step, it is common for the winemaker to pick and choose specific base wines to blend together to set the direction for the final product.
  2. The next step is a tirage: a solution of yeast and sugar are added to the cuvée in an effort to start the second fermentation. During this step, the mixture is bottled and topped with a signature crown cap.
  3. At this point in time, winemakers wait for the second fermentation to occur. This step of the sparkling wine production process adds more alcohol content, and creates CO2, giving us the classic carbonation we expect.
  4. Next, winemakers will age the wine, which helps it develop its texture and palate. The amount of sugar added in the production process is important, since sugar levels ultimately determine the dryness of the wine, and the pressure created in the bottle.
  5. With two fermentation steps, it is common for “used up” yeast (also known as the “lees”) to collect inside the bottle. The next step of the process is to turn all the bottles upside down, forcing the yeast in the wine to sink into the neck of the wine bottle.
  6. In order to remove the yeast from the bottle, the bottles stay upside down as they are quickly relocated into freezing water. The yeast in the neck of the bottle freeze, allowing winemakers to pop off the cap just long enough for the lees to escape.
  7. Last but not least, a solution of wine and sugar are added into each bottle in order to fill them. The bottles are corked, wired shut, and sent off to be labeled!

Sparkling Wine Varietals

Glera

  • Notable Regions Grown: The Veneto and Friuli Regions of Italy
  • Origin: Italy
  • Sweetness: Dry
  • Flavors: White peaches, Lime, Lemon, Grapefruit, Acacia Honey, Elderflower, Lily

Glera grapes are most notably used in the production of Prosecco wines, and is technically a synonym to the prosecco grape. This grape varietal has a classic light green skin, and has been grown for centuries around the globe specifically for sparkling wines. It also has high yields, ripens late, and has a high acidity contrasted with a neutral palate.

In 2009, the Prosecco grape name was officially changed to Glera, when a certain Prosecco wine was promoted to full DOCG status. During this change, it was agreed upon that the name Prosecco should be used exclusively for Italian Prosecco appellations, and not for the actual grape varietal itself. In fact, the EU ratified this change by making it essentially illegal to label wines as Prosecco unless produced in northeastern Italy.

Food Pairing with Glera

If you already enjoy Prosecco quite frequently, you’re probably aware that it pairs well with both sweet and savory flavors. It can be sipped at the beginning of a meal, throughout an entree, or as a dessert companion. Some common Glera sparkling wine pairings are as follows:

  • Meat: Roasted chicken or steak
  • Seafood: Smoked Salmon, Shrimp, Shellfish
  • Cheese: Mature burrata cheese, Mozzarella, Grana Padano
  • Vegetable: Tapas, Caprese Salad, Avocado
  • Fruit: Lychee

Our Selection of Glera

  • Italy: Scavi & Ray Prosecco D.O.C. - This delicious sparkling wine checks all the boxes. It is an Italian Prosecco, made from handpicked grapes in the Veneto region. Its refreshing, dry feel with fine bubbles makes it an enjoyable wine for any occasion.

Moscato

  • Notable Regions Grown: Piedmont & Asti Regions of Italy, California, Australia
  • Origin: The origins of Moscato can be traced back to Greece
  • Sweetness: Semi-sweet
  • Flavors: Orange, pear, lemon, and honeysuckle

Moscato is a popular white wine made from the Muscat family of grapes, which consists of over 200 varieties. Moscato wines are known for their sweet, citrus aromas that feature notes and flavors of orange, pear, lemon and more, however, the grapes can also be used to make dessert wines, which are known for their sweet and rich caramel flavors. It is also one of the oldest wine grapes in the world.

Food Pairing with Moscato

Moscato is intended to be served chilled and pairs well with light, zesty salads, and a number of desserts, including apple and peach cobblers. Some common food pairings with Moscato include the following:

  • Meat: Flank steak, chicken, and pork
  • Seafood: Crab, fish
  • Cheese: Goat cheese, brie
  • Vegetable: Light, zesty salads that feature citrus and fruit flavors

Our Selection of Moscato

  • Italy: Abbazia Moscato Rosé Dolce - This sweet, sparkling wine is a lovely shade of pink, and is a perfect companion for a poolside summer day. It is produced by the Santero family in the Piedmont region of Italy, a region known for its sweet wine heritage.

Ugni Blanc

  • Notable Regions Grown: France, Italy, Bulgaria, Australia
  • Origin: Tuscany, Italy
  • Sweetness: Dry
  • Flavors: Citrus, Lemon, Quince, Pine Resin

Ugni Blanc is a grape varietal that comes from the shores near the Mediterranean Sea. If produced in cooler regions, Ugni Blanc will typically take on a lively, discreet aroma. In warmer regions, this grape shows off its smoother, more fresh, full-bodied mouthfeel, bursting with flavor. Many winemakers prize this grape varietal in its ability to make easy-drinking but rich and complex sparkling wines.

This grape ripens and buds late, and its yields are very closely monitored. While highly adaptable to different training and pruning methods, as well as soil environments, it does tend to fare badly in harsh winters and strong winds.

Food Pairing with Ugniblanc

Ugni Blanc is commonly a refreshing, light-bodied sparkling wine that has distinct aromas and subtle citrus hints. This makes it a versatile pairing for al fresco dining, along with simple foods and light lunches. In other words, if you’re craving Meditteranean cuisine, look no further than an Ugni Blanc wine! Some common food pairings for this varietal are the following:

  • Meat: Roasted pesto chicken
  • Seafood: Crayfish, Sardines
  • Cheese: Young cheeses
  • Vegetable: Power greens with vinegar

Our Selection of Ugni Blanc

  • France: Georges Vigouroux Hommage Blanc de Blancs - With a fruity nose and white fruit notes, this sparkling wine is a delicious, easygoing wine that can be enjoyed with citrusy seafood dishes and appetizers.

White Blend

White blends are winemaker’s way of ensuring quality and bringing their unique visions to life. Sometimes two, three, four or even five grapes allow a winemakers artistic expression to shine and truly bring the quality of the grapes out from one another. While the popular white blends consist of White Bordeaux (Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle) and White Bourgogne (Chardonnay, Aligote), there are hundreds of other white wine blends out there that allow winemakers to show off their expertise.

Our Selection of White Blends

  • Italy: Scavi & Ray Ice Prestige Sparkling - This exquisite sparkling wine is perfect for fancy, distinguished dinners. It’s delicate, fruity notes make it easily quaffable, and its gentle, fine bubbles give it plenty of character.
  • Italy: Abbazia Cuvée Prestige - If you’re a fan of Prosecco, this is the wine for you. Produced using the Charmat method, this refreshing sparkling wine gives off a complex floral and fruity palate that finishes dry.
  • Spain: Fincalegre Cava - This fresh sparkling wine, a Cava Brut, is a luxurious sparkling wine at an affordable price. Its fresh fruit flavors make it a great choice for an aperitif that can actually be enjoyed throughout your entire meal!

Sparkling Wine in a Nutshell

Is there ever a reason to not enjoy some bubbly? Sparkling wines have been enjoyed for centuries for their delightful, effervescent quality. Made from grapes grown in a variety of regions, from Italy to France to Australia, sparkling wines have captured the hearts of wine enthusiasts and those looking to brighten up any social engagement. With plenty of food pairing options to choose from, its like sparkling wine was made to be enjoyed at all times!

Want to learn more? We also have guides on red wine, white wine, rosé wine and dessert wine too. Check those out if you’re curious about other types of wine!