I’m going to the Wine Bloggers Conference this August in Lodi, California and, as a citizen blogger, I have to write 3 pieces for the Conference. So, I looked at the WBC site for inspiration to write something that fits the principles of my blog: keep wine simple. I can’t describe how happy I was when I discover that one of the Conference’s sponsors is Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards.
Gloria Ferrrer produces not only still wines but also sparkling wines… And this is why I want to talk about them. First, because it provides me a topic that fits well with the wine beginners: the sparkling wine. And second, because Gloria Ferrer winery has its origin in my birth place: Barcelona, or, as I refer to it when I’m attacked by homesickness, the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. The Ferrer winery is the first sparkling wine house in Carneros, where they found the maritime influences and the rolling hills perfect for the traditional method used to produce sparkling wine. New World wine with traditional Old World methods.
So, let’s talk about why every wine beginner should begin by drinking sparkling wine. Sparkling wine can be easy to drink, crispy and refreshing and also a deep, silky, savory and luxuriant vice. The traditional method to produce this sublime wine provides a wide range of flavors, aromas and mouth sensations that will let you increase your knowledge and perception of wine. Because of its refreshing first impression and the sweet to bone-dry range, sparkling wine can appeal to every palate.
Many regions produce sparkling wines but the most famous among them is Champagne. Champagne only refers to a sparkling wine made under the traditional method (aka champenoise) produced in Champagne (France) and made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. So, when talking about American wines, the proper word is sparkling wine, even though it may use the same method and grape varieties.
Sparkling wine labelling can be confusing. Let’s see the terms you might find on the label.
About the quality
There are 3 quality levels:
- NON-VINTAGE: unless otherwise specified in the bottle, all sparkling wines are non-vintage. It means the sparkling wine is made from a blending of base wine produced in different years. That’s why regular sparkling wines don’t show the production year in the bottle. The blending of different base wines is part of the secret of each winery and serves the purpose of having a consistent house style year after year.
- VINTAGE: this sparkling wine is from a good or great year and vineyard. Wineries produce sparkling wine blending base wines of a single year. This is a better quality sparkling wine than non-vintage.
- CUVÉE: this term refers to the highest quality sparkling wine from a winery. It is made with the best grape varieties (chardonnay, pinot noir) from the best parcels of the vineyard and the juice is only from the first pressing. They can be vintage or non-vintage.
About the grapes
When talking about grape varieties, sparkling wines are usually made from a blending of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and, depending on the origin, can be made from Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Muscat à Petit Grains, Mauzac, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Macabeu, Parellada, Xarel-lo and others. Some, but not all, labels will specify:
- BLANC DE BLANCS: a sparkling made of 100% Chardonnay.
- BLANC DE NOIRS: a sparkling made of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
About the sweetness
Finally, the sugar. Sparkling wine winemaking produces sediments in the bottle (aka lees). These sediments need to be removed from the bottle before the wine reaches the market… But getting rid of them is not an easy thing: you need to remove the sediments without losing the precious, pressurized liquid in the bottle. So, it is as difficult as it sounds, and wine ends up spilling out of the bottle along with the undesired sediments. What to do then? The obvious answer: do it as quickly as possible, replace the lost liquid with “more wine” and re-cap it. Well, this “more wine” is called “liqueur d’expedition” and it may contain different amounts of sugar. This is defined on the label as:
- BRUT NATURE or EXTRA BRUT: consider these sparkling as dry.
- BRUT: from dry to off-dry.
- EXTRA SEC or SEC: from off-dry to medium dry.
- DEMI-SEC: sweet thing.
- DOUX: very sweet.
About the winemaking
There may also other specifications on the label such as the name of a special parcel of the vineyard, if it was fermented in oak (or oaked) or its aging period (or time sur lie). This last is important as the more time the sparkling stays on the lees (it means with the sediments inside the bottle) the silkier and richer the flavor will be.
Do you want to know where you can try it near you?
Check this site: Gloria Ferrer.