Bubbles All Over The World

Sparkling wine, Prosecco, Cava, Champagne and now the English come and invent their „Britagne“ (pronounced “Brit-an-ye“ off course and not like the ending in Champagne). It makes it all even more confusing. So let’s see what actually the difference is between all these sparkling wines and why is Champagne more expensive than the rest.

As a sparkling lover I’m going to explain all differences between the various bubblies. All Champagnes and Sparkling wines come as Extra Brut, Brut (most popular style) Extra Dry, Sec and Demi-Sec depending on their sugar levels. Brut describes a dry natural wine that no sweetness was added to.

Most importantly: anything that is not produced within the French region of Champagne needs to be given another name. In the European Union it is even illegal to call any sparkling “Champagne” when it is not made in this particular region.

But why is Champagne more expensive than other bubblies? The territory of making the wine and the circumstances around the wine making, such as production method or weather are factors that need to be considered.

The method used to produce Champagne is called “the methodé champenoise” and involves a lot of costs, time and labour. Regular wine is put into a bottle and fermented again which produces all these bubbles. After an aging process of at least 15 months the by-products of fermentation (dead yeast cells) must be carefully extracted from the bottle. The pressure inside this bottle is equivalent to that in a car tire. The long storage period and the compound of blends from different years (some may be 8-10 years) also cause additional costs.

The second point is that the Champagne region has relatively cool temperatures that make growing and ripening of wine grapes more difficult. Spring frosts and lack of sunshine mean that some grapes never ripen. So you do not only pay for the grapes that made it into the bottle but also for the ones that didn’t. The process of winemaking itself is expensive and you pay the price. Another problem with this area is it needs to provide countries around the world with its Champagne and although every acre is planted with vines the rarity raises the price.

Italy’s flagship in regards to bubbly is Prosecco made of Italian’s grapes (the Italian wine, region and grape is called Prosecco). It is a fun fruity bubbly, lighter and slightly sweeter than Champagne and the procedure of producing Prosecco differs from the “the methodé champenoise.” Instead the “Charmat” method is used. The wine goes through the second fermentation in pressurised tanks and not in individualised bottles. This tank fermentation preserves the freshness of Prosecco and flavour of the grapes. This procedure is not as complex as for Champagne which allows the lower price.

Since it is a light-bodied, off-dry fizz with slight aromas of peach it is great for making cocktails. Mixed with peach juice Prosecco becomes a Bellini or combined with Aperol and a splash of seltzer it makes a great Aperol Spritz both very popular refreshing drinks in Italy. Two Italian terms describe the type of Prosecco; Spumante is used for fully sparkling wines and Frizzante for lightly sparkling.The name Prosecco can only be applied to sparkling wines that are made of grapes grown in the north-east of Italy. All Prosecco-producing regions are awarded the DOC designation – “Denominazione di origine controllata”, the Italian equivalent of France’s “Appellation d’origine contrôlée” and the first 15 designated regions were elevated to the highest status DOCG.

Winemakers in countries like Austria, Germany, Australia and Brazil that grow Prosecco grape are no longer allowed to call their sparkling wines Prosecco. Instead they will have to use the word “glera” – an alternative name for this grape. Other Italian sparklers are Franciacorta from Lombardy, Asti from Piedmont and Lambrusco from Emilia.

The Spanish Cava resembles Champagne more than the Italian Prosecco. Cava is Spain’s signature sparkling wine mostly made of grapes from the Catalonia hills. Cava is exclusively made of Spanish grapes while the production method used is the same as for Champagne. Cava is softer than Champagne and has aromas of honey, green apple and dried herbs. A good quality Cava will start at a price of €11 which seems a very interesting budget option.

New world countries will surprise you with good sparkling wines as well. Try Australia’s Jacob’s Creek or Wolf Blass which are the ones that rival Champagne the most or go with Cloudy Bay from New Zealand.

Argentina and Chile offer very drinkable sparkling wines for an affordable price. Still relatively new on the world wine market Brazil seems to be on a catch up race and surprises with refreshing and very tasty sparklings such as Aurora Sparkling or Miolo’s Millesime Brut.

Have a look at our range of Champagnes, Proseccos, Cavas and other sparkling wines at www.WinesMadeEasy.ie

Brazil on a catch-up race

We are very proud to say that we just added a variety of high quality and tasty Brazilian wines to our product range. I got really excited when we took in red, white and sparkling wines from Brazil after concentrating on the more “typical” wine countries first.

I’ve never tasted any wines from this country before. What will they taste like? Are they of good quality? Some people might think: Don’t they just drink Caipirinha in Brazil? And how can they produce wine over there when the country is covered with rain forests?

Brazil is, indeed a comparatively young wine producer on the world market with just 4 years of international wine recognition and in an early stage of development when it comes to promoting the wine abroad or supporting the export. Actually the country has a relatively long history of wine making since Italian immigrants settled in South Brazil in the 19th century which brought grapevines and the tradition of wine. Most of their wines are hardly known outside of Brazil. That is a shame since it is wine of high quality and fantastic flavour.

The country currently exports 20% of its wine production and is becoming more and more famous for its sparkling wines. Opinions I received on wines from Brazil just back it up: surprisingly good sparkling wines, excellent red wines, fresh and juicy with moderate alcohol level.

According to a survey by the Brazilian Wine Institute Ibravin (Instituto Brasileiro do Vinho), in 2010 12.5 million litres of sparkling wine were sold, compared to 11.1 million gallons placed in 2009. And now for 2011 exports are expected to rise by a third in value again. The UK is the strongest import market for Brazilian wines and just topped the US.

90% of production is concentrated in the south of the country, an area called Serra Gaúcha located between Uruguay and the Atlantic Ocean. Also the São Francisco Valley, a hot desert area only nine degrees south of the equator is famous for growing wine and allows two productions of crops per year.

So what to expect from these wines? Often mentioned and dominant wine brands are Miolo, Lidio Carraro and Pizzato. The Miolo Group of wineries remains to be one of Brazil’s high quality producers with wines in many quality ranges from basic-popular to Icon ranges all consisting of award winning wines.

One of the Super Premium Range wines is Miolo Brut Millésime. Made of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes it creates a refreshing and fruity sparkling with 12% volume in alcohol.

Miolo Lote 43, an Icon wine with Caberent Sauvignon and Merlot grapes is an easy to enjoy and full flavoured red wine with aromas of dried plums, currants and mints.

Another excellent wine producer Lidio Carraro holds vineyards in the Vale dos Vinhedos appellation which has become known as the origin of Brazil’s finest wines. One speciality Carraro’s wine have is that no oak is used for wine production. Its Dadivas Chardonnay comes with vanilla aromas and natural freshness.

Wines from Brazil are never too heavy and their ordinary alcohol volume of 13% makes the wines easy to enjoy for every occasion.

Brazilian wines are definitely here to stay. A look at the brilliant prospects for the wine industry in Brazil shows that there is big potential for these wines. Although still the “traditional” old world and new world wine countries are in people’s mind due to the growing wine consumption Brazil will get its chance and hopefully become a more prominent player in the world of wine.

Curious now? Go to WinesMadeEasy.ie and check out our Brazilian wines.

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