Have you ever wondered about the sweetness of sparkling wines and champagnes? Here is a quick little chart for your edification. I urge you to try wines at all levels of sweetness. It never hurts to consult online reviews. And remember, you can always find a good bottle of wine for $20 or less. (Courtesy of Reverse Wine Snob)
The sweetness/sugar level of sparkling wine is typically noted on the label according to the following chart. (Note that these are not the same classifications as red wines and the terms here really reflect the perceived level of sugar which is determined by the acidity levels as well.)
- Brut nature (Brut Zero): 0-3 grams per liter (g/L), and no sugar added
- Extra brut: 0-6 g/L
- Brut: 0-12 g/L
- Extra dry: 12-17 g/L
- Dry (Secco): 17-32 g/L
- Demi-sec: 32-50 g/L
- Doux: 50 g/L
If you don’t know anything about the winery/producer, you can flip the bottle over to the back label and look for the following terms on wines made in the USA:
- “Estate Bottled” or “Grown, Produced and Bottled by“: Both these terms mean that 100% of the grapes were grown on a winery’s own vineyards within a single AVA and the wine was made by the winery on its own estate within the same AVA. Every part of the winemaking process must happen at the winery. This doesn’t necessarily mean it is a single vineyard wine (in which 95% of the grapes must be from the named vineyard), just that it comes the winery’s own or controlled vineyards and every aspect of the winemaking process is done by them.
- “Produced and Bottled by“: Produced and Bottled by isn’t quite as restrictive in that only 75% of the grapes need to have been fermented by the winery itself. The other 25% could be finished wine that was purchased and blended in. Most of the time; however, this label simply means that the winery is purchasing grapes and making the wine themselves, a very common scenario.
- “Vinted and Bottled by“: This means the wine was mostly made by someone else, but the winery selling it did some cellar treatment (which could be as little as just aging it) or much more involved such as blending wines together.
- “Cellared and Bottled by“: This means the entire wine was made by someone else.
Simplified sparkling wine overview:
Sparkling wine is any wine that contains carbonation. It can be white, rosé or even red, and the bubbles are (usually) a naturally occurring result of fermentation.
- Champagne, a sparkling white wine from the Champagne region of France
- Cava, a Spanish sparkling white
- Prosecco, an Italian sparkling white (don’t skimp on price!)
- Lambrusco, a sparkling red wine
- Sparkling rosé My choice is a cremant from Loire)
Cheese, seafood, fresh fruit and salad are natural pairs for bubbly, as well as spicy and fatty food, since the bubbles scrub your palate. My view is that champagne and sparkling wines are “food friendly” meaning they go well with just about everything, from appetizer to dessert.
Sparkling wine should always be served cold, partly because it enhances the effect of the carbonation and partly because if you try to open a warm bottle of sparkling wine, it’s almost guaranteed to explode. (Cool science lesson: It’s because, as the University of California, Santa Barbara Science Line explains, cold liquid can hold onto more carbon dioxide.) For the safest and easiest way to open a bottle, read on here.
Feel free to share your favorites, as I have, over the years.