When it comes to celebratory beverages, sparkling wines often take center stage. Whether you’re enjoying a glass at a wedding, serving up some drinks at a party, or popping a bottle to celebrate New Years – sparkling wines are always the accepted go-to.
The effervescent bubbles, crisp acidity, and refreshing taste make them a perfect choice for special occasions, or simply for indulging in a glass of bubbly on a sunny afternoon to make it a bit more of a special day. While Champagne and Prosecco are without doubt both the most well-known, and most widely consumed, sparkling wines, there is a whole world of sparkling wines beyond these two iconic regions.
Enhancing your personal collection beyond the classics can bring something unique to the table at a dinner party (pardon the pun), or enhance a special evening to make it just that little bit more special. Don’t get us wrong, we love champagne. Having reviewed everything from vintage Dom Perignon to Aldi’s Monsigny Champagne Brut, we know that there is a whole world of just Champagne out there to explore, but if you’d like to expand your horizons a little more, why not try some of the other sparkling wines the world has to offer?
Cava, hailing from the Catalonia region in Spain, is a sparkling wine that is made using the traditional method of winemaking, just like Champagne. It is also a protected title, meaning that Cava must be made both in the traditional method and only in specific regions – in exactly the same way that Champagne is.
It is produced from indigenous grape varieties such as Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel·lo, and undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle, resulting in fine and persistent bubbles. Pairing well with everything from tapas (obviously…) to spicy Asian cuisine (slightly less obviously), Cava also offers a great value for money, at a much more affordable price point than Champagne.
Franciacorta, produced in the Lombardy region of Italy, is often referred to as Italy’s Champagne.
Like Cava, it is also made using the traditional methods, and is crafted from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Blanc grapes – lending elegance, complexity, and structure to the wine. Franciacorta is known for its refined and persistent bubbles, making it an absolutely perfect sparkling wine to serve at an event like a party or high-end networking event, where people are more likely to be gently sipping their glasses than knocking them back with vigor.
Crémant is a term used for sparkling wines produced in various regions of France, outside of Champagne. Effectively, you can think of Crémant as being ‘rustic Champagne’, where winemakers have freedom to explore outside of the required grape varietals for champagne – being crafted from different grapes depending on the region in France.
Crémant wines can offer excellent quality and value, and each come with their own unique characteristics and styles. For this reason though, Crémant can have a large amount of variability, so if you try a bottle and it doesn’t quite hit the mark for you, don’t be afraid to explore some other bottles from other regions until you find one which you feel is the perfect balance for your palate.
As Crémant is to France, Sekt is to Germany. Germany is known for its world-class Rieslings, and as Sekt can be made from the Riesling varietal (including others such as Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris), you can see how this could be a match made in heaven.
German Sekt is typically produced in a dry style and is known for its freshness, crispness, and delicate bubbles. The resulting wines are best served in line with mixing their varietal lineage with the best pairings for sparkling wines. To give an example – sparkling wines are often served with canapés, and since Riesling pairs excellently with seafood, a Riesling based Sekt would be an excellent pairing with a smoked salmon canapé!
English Sparkling Wine
Although yet to achieve the benchmark of having a specific name like Cava or Sekt, English sparkling wine has been gaining popularity in recent years, with many producers achieving recognition on the international stage for their quality production.
The chalky soils and cool climate in regions such as Sussex, Kent, and the Midlands provide ideal conditions for growing traditional Champagne grape varieties, such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Due to the terroir, most English sparkling wines exhibit complexity and bright acidity, making them an excellent variation on the more traditional Champagne or Processco.