How to Choose Champagne and Sparkling
It seems strange to think that a tall, stemmed glass full of tiny bubbles could be intimidating, but choosing Champagne or other sparkling wine can make many people feel a little unsure.
Perhaps you just don’t where to start, or maybe you “tried it once but didn’t like it”? Many people don’t realise that there is incredible diversity amongst sparkling wines. They can be sweet or dry, great on their own or with a meal, produced in Australia or overseas, even white or red! And with a little knowledge – and a few extra words in your drinking vocabulary, care of our quick guide to Champagne and sparkling – you can find one just right for you.
The decision to ban the term Champagne from being used for any sparkling made outside the famous French wine region was a PR masterstroke, and has preserved the prestige associated with this premium wine. It is generally only made from three grape varieties – chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier – with the proportion of grape varieties used varying between producers. Champagne is home to household names such as Möet & Chandon.
In recent years many of the original grape growers of Champagne have turned their hands to wine production too. These boutique growers have made Champagnes in a range of different styles and are worth seeking out. Names include Charles Orban and Louis Auger.
Produced in eight regions across France, including Burgundy, Alsace and Languedoc, this sparkling wine was originally named for its creamy texture. Excellent examples, such as Sieur d'Arques Grande Cuvée 1531, are produced in the Limoux region (look for Crémant de Limoux on the label).
This Italian style of sparkling has surged in popularity in Australia in recent years, and it’s not surprising – its crisp, dry aperitif style makes it a perfect pre-meal drink. Many fine Italian proseccos are available here, while many of the best Australian proseccos come from the cool-climate of Victoria’s King Valley.
Spain’s answer to Champagne is primarily made in the Penedès region of Catalonia from a range of different grape varieties, is named for the caves that were used to store and preserve the wine, and can only be called cava if it is made in the traditional “méthode Champenoise”. If you’re put off by the acidity of Champagne, cava may be the sparkling for you!
Australian Sparkling Wine
There are many styles of sparkling in Australia, such as the proseccos of King Valley mentioned above, but most premium sparkling is produced here using the “méthode Champenoise”. Many of the best Australian sparkling wines come from cool climate regions such as Tasmania, the Yarra Valley and the Adelaide Hills.
Largely an Australian phenomenon, sparkling shiraz has become closely linked to Christmas celebrations, and not only because of its rich red colouring – it makes a fantastic drink match to roast turkey.
Brut or Extra Dry?
Sparkling wine can be dry to sweet. “Brut” indicates a dry wine and is the standard style in Champagne as well as most sparklings. You might also see sparkling described as “Extra Dry” but, contrary to what you might expect, this means “semi-dry” so is actually a little sweeter than Brut!
Vintage or Non-Vintage?
Harvests from a single year that are not blended with other years are referred to as “vintage”, showing the year of production on the label. Vintage wines, particularly from years when growing and harvesting conditions produced exceptional wines, are seen as premium, but there are many high-quality non-vintage (NV) wines too.
Seen on many labels of Champagne or sparkling, this word simply indicates that the wine is a blend from different vineyards, vintages (to make NV) or wine parcels.
Our most popular Sparkling Wines
Content provided by Dan Murphy’s.