What Are Sparkling White and Rosé Wines?
Be honest, when you read 'sparkling wines' you immediately thought of Prosecco, right? True, Prosecco is one of the most popular sparkling wines in the world that easily outsells Champagne across the globe. However, there is so much more to Italian sparkling wines than just that!
Did you know that Italy produces the largest variety of sparkling wines in the world? That's another record-breaking fact about Italian wines!
This is something we have been doing for ages. And by ages, I mean since Roman times. Not bragging ... it's just a fact!
Though most sparkling wines are produced in the cooler north, every wine-producing region in Italy boasts incredible bubbles. Considering that wine is made in every region across Italy's boot, the range of bubbles out here is impressive! And they are not just white! Pink bubbles are a beautiful thing too. Made from leaving the skin of the red grape in contact for a short while with the pulp, these pink sparkling wines are conquering every palate!
The Italian Words Spumante and Frizzante
In Italian, the word for 'sparkling wines' is spumante. It doesn't tell us anything about the where, what and how of the wine. It just means 'bubbles'. It has at least 3-3.5 and up to 6 bars pressure in the bottle.
There is another word you should know, frizzante. This means is slightly bubbly. It has up to 3 bars pressure in the bottle.
How Do Bubbles Make It Inside the Bottle?
Generally speaking, creating the fizz is not as easy as one might think. Two fermentations, one to make wine and the other to make bubbles, are required.
In the first fermentation, tiny microorganisms called yeasts eat the sugars in the grapes, transforming them into alcohol and carbon dioxide. In the second fermentation, more yeasts and sugars are added to the wine to generate the bubbles.
Not all bubbles are created equally, though. There are 2 main sparkling winemaking methods.
Metodo Classico, or Traditional Method, is also known as Méthode Champenoise (think French Champagne). This is how Franciacorta is made.
The Traditional Method is when the second fermentation occurs in the bottle. This is the most expensive way to make bubbles as it is time- and labor-consuming.
Metodo Italiano, or Italian method, is also called Martinotti (after the man who invented the method) or Charmat Method. This is how Prosecco is made.
The Italian Method is when the second fermentation happens in pressurized stainless-steel tanks prior to bottling. It’s a quick and less expensive sparkling winemaking method.
Different Types of Sparkling Wines
Sparkling wines are classified according to the residual amount of sugar in the bottle (that residue is the sugar the yeasts were not able - or not allowed! - to eat during the 1st and the 2nd fermentations).
The categories of sparkling wine, from driest to sweetest, are:
Pas dosé: less than 1 gram per liter (gr/l) of sugar
Brut nature: less than 3 gr/l
Extra brut: less than 6 gr/l
Brut: less than 15 gr/l
Extra dry: between 12 and 20 gr/l (is the last one you can consider properly dry)
Dry or Secco: between 18 and 35 gr/l
Demi-sec or Amabile or Abboccato: between 33 and 50 gr/l
Doux or Dolce: more than 50 gr/l
Italian bubbles must be served very cold and it has everything to do with the bubbles locked inside the bottle. The cold temperature brings out the best of the bubbles and gives the wine that delicious crispiness and mouthfeel.
Sparkling wines are best served between 4 - 8° C / 39 - 46° F.