To call a sparkling wine “Champagne” simply means that it was produced in France’s Champagne region (which is how it derives its name). However, there are numerous wines produced outside of France that utilize the same fermentation processes. Though many may taste nearly identical to Champagne, these wines must be called “sparkling wines” simply because they are not the exclusive products of the Champagne region.
When exploring the vast world of non-Champagne, sparkling wines, remember these bits of wisdom: the thing is not the thing named, and a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. It is unwise to dismiss a wine simply because it bears a label denoting a place of origin other than the Champagne region. In fact, comparing the types of sparkling wines from around the globe can be exciting! The biggest sparkling wine producing countries in the world are France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the United States, and Russia. But big doesn’t mean best – let’s explore some favorites…
“Espumante” is a Portuguese sparkling wine. While the many well-known varieties are made in the country’s Vinho Verde region, Espumante is produced all throughout Portugal, even in the southern region known for its extreme, unstable temperatures. The most prized Espumantes often come from the Bairrada region, and from the Távora-Varosa wine region located in the northwestern section of the Beiras region.
Predominately produced in Catalonia, home to the magnificent architecture of Gaudi, a champion of Catalan Modernism, “Cava” is a white or pink sparkling wine often made from Parellada, Xarel-lo, and Viura grapes (with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir only recently allowed to be used as well). The most recognized names of its producers are Cordoniu and Freixenet. According to Spanish law, Cava must be made according to the “traditional method” meaning that the wine’s second fermentation process must occur in the bottle.
While known for their domination of the sparkling Shiraz market (Yes, that is a sparkling RED wine), Australia’s cooler areas (like Tasmania and Victoria) have been producing wines much similar to Champagne for several years. The Yarra Valley in Victoria, the picturesque Pyrenees mountains, and the Tasmanian Pinot Noir region have successfully grown quality Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes for just such purposes.
They say the smaller the bubbles in your sparkler, the better quality the wine. And how many bubbles are in a bottle? One scientist suggested 49 million!
Most of the country’s sparkling wines are produced in the Romanian county of Panciu, which lies on the Susita river, in southern Moldavia. Its famous Panciu Cellars, dating back to the era of Stephen the Great and Saint (1457-1504), are legendary, as are its wines. Romania is one of the top 5 wine producers in Europe, and one of the top 10 in the world. When you try a good Romanian wine, you will easily understand why. Popular Romanian sparklers include those made by Zarea, and Angelli.
Prosecco grapes are used to make “Prosecco” in the Veneto region of Italy. Often intended as a casual drink for refreshment, its name conjures images of pleasant Venetian ease, and creative exploration in art, music, and architecture. It is found in “fully sparkling” (spumante) and “lightly sparkling” (frizzante) varieties.
These are but a handful of areas currently sharing the gift of sparkling wine with the world; there are many, many more! Be aware in your journeys, and see what sparkling wine discoveries you can make for yourself!