Sparkling Wine is the ultimate celebration libation! Such a delicate elixir is guaranteed to elevate any Gathering.
Why is Sparkling Wine the Ultimate Celebration Libation?
It invokes images of the rich and famous at a swanky awards party or out for an elegant evening decked out in tuxes and sequins toasting over a candelabra. Or, if you are at my house, you’ll see me sitting on the couch in my slippers sipping some bubbles after a lazy brunch with friends.
Hey, Sparkling Wine or Champagne isn’t just for New Year’s Eve and wedding celebrations, it is completely acceptable to consume it at breakfast, lunch, or dinner! Use it to celebrate life’s little moments, not just the big ones!
Sparkling Wine is interchangeable with several names to include: Champagne, Cava, Sekt, Prosecco, and Crémant. These names really identify the style and where it is made more than anything else. The bubbles in the glass, regardless of the bottle, elevate any occasion whether you are in stilettos or flip flops. Every event is elegant with a glass of bubbly at hand.
“Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.”Mark Twain
What is Sparkling Wine?
Sparkling wine, with its fizzy, bubbly effervescence spells joy and celebration. Still wine is fabulous, but the tiny bubbles in Sparkling Wine, the ultimate celebration libation, immediately means party! But how the heck do those bubbly pearls get in the bottle?
The Birth of the Bottle of Bubbly
To begin, bubbles are created when carbon dioxide gas dissolved in wine is released. That pressure explains the need for thread or wire closures over the cork to keep it in place.
Pressure is also why sparkling wine bottles are heavier and thicker than still wine bottles and have a deep punt or rut in their bottom. When the bottle is opened, that pressure releases and the wine begins to sparkle.
So how does carbon dioxide get into wine? In a nutshell, there are three ways.
- First, it can be added, like with soda.
- Second, winemakers trap carbon dioxide from the wine’s initial fermentation.
- Third, which is how most sparkling wine is made, is to put finished wine through a second fermentation with additional yeast and sugar and trap the resulting carbon dioxide. This can happen in a large tank or individual bottle.
An interesting side note: if the sparkling is made by either the 2nd or 3rd methods, you can actually store wine uncorked in the refrigerator for three or four days without losing the bubbles. As long as the sparkling wine is kept really cold, the carbon dioxide (bubbles) will remain in solution and will faithfully reappear when being poured into a glass!
Keep Sparkling Wine — the Ultimate Celebration Libation — on Hand!
We drink a lot of Sparkling Wine around here throughout the year as I am always up for a celebration. But from Thanksgiving to New Year’s we keep a couple of cases on hand, with several bottles in the cooler, at all times.
Throughout the year you never know when you’ll need to make an impromptu toast! That promotion at work certainly deserves a toast with something special. On the other hand, Joseph Campbell would suggest you break out the bubbly to celebrate a lay-off or firing because now you can follow your bliss!
All kinds of announcements and events deserve some bubbly like engagements, births, sending kids to college, college graduations, anniversaries, birthdays, etc. I could go on and on.
Little Moments Matter
But . . . you should not reserve the bottle of bubbly for just the big announcements or events requiring a big price tag. Many forms of bubbly have quite reasonable price tags and some pretty inexpensive ones are very quaffable, which allows you to enjoy your toast guilt-free any time.
The question we must ask ourselves is, why not celebrate small moments with as much elegance and flare as big moments? There is so much to celebrate in life and especially of late. Yes, seriously. It feels like everything has been on hold or is being minimized. Break out of the rut and pick something to celebrate!
- Congratulations, you made it through the grocery store and they had everything you needed on your list! Hurrah, pop a cork!
- Whoot whoot, you completed all of your holiday shopping and gift wrapping with more than 24 hours before the gifts will be torn open. Toast yourself!
- Break out the bubbly while watching “It’s a Wonderful Life”. We should all celebrate learning a significant life lesson!
- Go big and open a chilled bottle of Veuve Cliquot while watching Casablanca. Toast yourself for doing it in style!
All Bubbles are not the Same
Most consider Champagne as the gold standard when picking a Sparkling Wine for a celebration. Many use “champagne” as a generic term for sparkling wine. However, the name can only grace the labels of those wines which use a specific and strict set of rules to create them and they must come from the Champagne wine region of France.
Méthode Champenoise is the traditional method to produce Champagne. First, there is primary fermentation when yeasts transform sugars in the juice into ethanol and carbon dioxide. Then, a second alcoholic fermentation occurs in the bottle after adding more yeast and sugar. As the wine sits on the dying yeast a sediment forms called the lees. Throughout fermentation, the bottle is gradually tipped and slowly turned so that all the lees collect in the neck of the bottle. Each bottle is flash-frozen, the lees are popped out, and the bottle is sealed again to wait for you to open it.
So you can see it takes significant effort to produce Champagne which is why its price tag is also significant. If you don’t want to spend the money on a decent $40 – $50 Champagne, then I would recommend enjoying a less expensive Prosecco or Cava over a cheap and probably rough Champagne.
Another French sparkler is Crémant, sort of a cousin to Champagne. Crémant production regulations are strict, and only a little less fussy than Champagne regulations.
Crémant uses the Méthode Champenoise for its bubbles, but cannot be labeled Champagne because it is produced in 8 appellations outside of the Champagne region. Each appellation uses different grapes and has different styles as well. Lots to enjoy here!
Cava is the Sparkling Wine of Spain which the producers make in the same way as Champagne. The name means “cellar” in Spanish giving a wink to storage methods used since its production in the 1850s. It finally became the official name in 1970. Apparently, branding takes time.
It is a wonderful bracingly dry bottle of bubbly that is less expensive than its French counterparts. You can find many styles of white and rose Cava with sweetness from very dry, almost citrusy to quite sweet with significant residual sugar.
Prosecco, Italian Sparkling Wine, is gaining in popularity and giving Champagne a run for its dominant seat in the sparkling market. Prosecco comes in two styles either Spumante (sparkling wine) or Frizzante (semi-sparkling). Spumante is the most famous and popular variety, with longer-lasting bubbles. Prosecco Frizzante has less lingering bubbles but is still very festive.
Unlike Champagne, secondary fermentation for Prosecco takes place in large stainless steel tanks. This “tank” method or “Charmat”, makes it less expensive to produce. Additionally, the minimum time in tanks is only 30 days where Champagne’s minimum requirement is 1.5 to 3 years.
This sparkler is a really popular pick for Mimosas and mixed bubbly drinks everywhere. It is my go-to for a sparkling cocktail because it doesn’t fight with any spirits or mixers. For the Holiday season, shake things up a bit and have a Cranberry Kir Royale instead of a Mimosa.
Welcome to the world of Sparkling Wine from Germany! Producers create Sekt in both the traditional method like Champagne and through the Charmat method like Prosecco.
One thing I find very interesting about Sekt is many use Riesling grapes in their base wine. Most people think “sweet” when they hear the word Riesling, but there is so much more to this varietal! I really enjoy dry, clean, and very crisp Rieslings as they are refreshing and can beautifully express the area from where the grapes were grown.
Availability is the downside to Sekt as more than 80% of it is consumed in Germany. They understand sparkling wine is the ultimate celebration libation!
Sekt is very affordable when you compare it to Champagne as it is produced in vast tanks and industrial quantities. However, there is a movement changing the German Sekt landscape due to an increasing number of small estates going to great effort to craft fine Sekt known as Winzersekt.
More on that in the future, but if you happen to find a bottle of German Sekt, give it a try! Looking for a recommendation? Start with this one.
Stock up on Sparkling Wine the Ultimate Celebration Libation!
Grab a few bottles or even a case of Sparkling Wine this Holiday Season for your designated celebration. Despite the #2020sh&tshow, there is much to celebrate this year, so do it with a bottle of bubbly!
Life has its ups and downs. We all experience struggles and triumphs. But, take a moment to reflect with gratitude on all that you are thankful for in your life – and the possibilities that lie ahead.
With every failure, there is a lesson. With every friend, there is a smile. With every family, there is acceptance. With every struggle, there is strength. With every life, there is joy.
Tap into your joy by popping open a bottle of bubbly and celebrate this beautiful thing called life.
P.S. If you don’t know where to start, Costco sometimes carries a gift box of sparkling around the holidays — six half bottles of Champagne, Brut Rosé, Cava, Prosecco Extra Dry, Sekt, and a Spumante. It looks like a fun gift and a great way to explore sparkling wines from around the globe! Cheers!