What is bubbly?
No matter what it’s called the sparkling quality of bubbly wines comes from its carbon dioxide content and may be the result of natural fermentation, either in a bottle, as with the traditional method or in a large tank designed to withstand the pressures involved (as in the Charmat process.) Lastly, it’s possible it’s just a result of cheap carbon dioxide injection. Like soda. Not judging. The closer to the bottling process that the carbonation happens, the more expensive the wine. That’s all we’re saying.
-In European countries, the word "champagne" is reserved by law only for sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France. If it’s not from Champagne it’s not champagne.
-Sparkling wines are produced around the world and are often referred to by their local name or region, such as Espumante from Portugal, Cava from Spain, Prosecco and Spumante from Italy and Cap Classique from South America among countless others. The bubbles have gone global because everyone loves nice things once in a while.
-The bubbles change in size and quantity based not only on the quality of the wine-making but also the glass used. A poured glass of bubbly will go flat faster than an open bottle as the imperfections in the glass help bubbles form and carbonization escape. Imperfections in the glass agitate them upon pouring.
-Carbonization has been assumed to help more rapid induction of alcohol into the bloodstream. We could tell you about studies done where the blood alcohol content of control groups was definitely affected by the carbonization but we don’t have to. You’ve had mimosas at brunch before yeah? Enough said.
A brief history
Up until the Middle Ages effervescence had been observed in wine production but was unintentional and viewed by most as a fault in the production of the wine.
Dom Pérignon (the French monk responsible for all the influence on the industry that led you to know his name as a champagne-look him up) was originally charged by his superiors at the Abbey of Hautvillers to get rid of the bubbles since the pressure in the bottles caused many of them to burst in the cellar. Which sucks. A lot.
Later, in the 18th century, wine cellar workers would still have to wear a heavy iron mask that resembled a baseball catcher's mask to prevent injury from spontaneously bursting bottles.
The disturbance caused by one bottle's eruption could cause a chain reaction, with it being routine for cellars to lose 20–90% of their bottles!! What a shame! We imagine if you go to some wineries in the EU you can hear ghostly calls of “Nooooooooo!!!!!” to this day.
Nowadays Champagne making is controlled strictly by the Appellation d’Origine Controlée (AOC). From dictating how one may grow the grapes to how they may be harvested and processed, many rigorous standards distinguish Champagne.
Champagne vs. sparkling wine:
-All grapes that are used in Champagne must be handpicked and pressed in a covered environment
-They may only be pressed twice. Once to make the ultra concentrated cuvée (which is high in sugar and acid) and the second time to make the taille (sugary, lower in acid, and higher in minerals and pigment).
-A Champagne may be classified as vintage or non-vintage. When wines are made with grapes of one year’s harvest it’s vintage. If it’s made with a mix of grapes from different years it’s non-vintage.
-“Sparkling” is any wine with carbonation not from the champagne region made under those strict guidelines. Simple as that.
“Sparkling” May be made with the exact same grapes as Champagne or an entirely different blend. From Rosé to Brut (or extra dry varieties) to super sweet sparkling dessert wines, the flavors, and qualities of sparkling run the gamut.
Random Wine Fact:
The mysterious circumstance surrounding the then unknown process of carbonization plus the dangerous exploding bottles caused some critics before the middle ages to call the sparkling creations "The Devil's Wine”
No matter whether you’re drinking a fantastic, astronomically priced champagne or enjoying an everyday sparkling wine that you just love, hopefully, those bubbles put a smile on your face.
Maybe like past winemakers, you find the effervescence mysterious, otherworldly, or just plain intoxicating (which yes...they definitely are) hopefully the next time you hear that “pop” you remember that we’re here enjoying with you. Thanks for reading, and as always...