Champagne, Prosecco, Pet-Nat, Cremant, Fizz, Pop. It goes by many names - but what do they all mean? Sparkling wine is commonly misunderstood, and consumers often don’t understand the processes that are undertaken getting that wine into the bottle. Here is a quick take to help you learn a touch more about sparkling, to help make choosing your next bottle of party plonk that much easier.
What is sparkling wine?
Sparkling wine is wine with dissolved carbon dioxide in solution. The process of fermentation breaks down sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. If the fermentation is sealed, the gas produced dissolves back into the liquid, and will be slowly released from it once the vessel is opened. But there are a few ways to get that signature fizz, with some production methods strictly regulated.
For centuries, a wine associated with luxury and decadence, the process of making Champagne is as complicated as any. Produced using the “Methode Traditonelle”, champagne begins its life very similarly to most white wine - standard fermentation (commonly in stainless steel) to produce a “base wine”. These base wines are bottled with an addition of sugar (the “tirage”) and a solution of yeast. This kicks off another fermentation, this one happening in bottle and under pressure. Once the fermentation is finished, there will be a deposit of dead yeast cells known as “lees” inside the bottle - the wine is aged on these lees for a minimum of 18 months (and often much, much longer) before they are removed from the bottle in a process called ‘disgorgement’. To finish, the bottle is topped up with a combination of wine and sugar known as the ‘dosage’.
On top of these production requirements, Champagne can only be produced from fruit grown in the Champagne region of France, where the vineyards are subject to strict quality control procedures.
Love champagne but can’t afford the price tag? Look out for Cremant! Made with the same production method described above, but from different regions, and with slightly lower minimum lees aging requirements. While Cremant is not well known for long-lived, vintage champagne, there are many great examples of delicious and easy-drinking Cremant's that won’t break the bank
Short for ‘Petillant-Naturel, Pet-Nat is sparkling wine which has had a secondary fermentation in the bottle This fermentation leaves a small deposit of dead yeast cells that collect at the base of the bottle.. Pet-Nat is an unregulated category so there can be many variations - commonly they are left undisgorged and the yeast cells make them naturally cloudy, whereas some are disgorged and crystal clear. There are no minimum requirements for lees-aging of Pet-Nat, and most are released for sale only a short period after fermentation is complete.
Prosecco is made using the ‘Charmat’ method, where carbon dioxide is trapped in the wine via a closed secondary ferment in steel tanks. Also referred to as ‘tank’ method, this creates wines with great acidity and fruit character, typically designed for drinking young.
Prosecco also has a subcategory - Prosecco non Filtrato - This is the traditional method of producing prosecco, which in practice is identical to the Pet-Nat method described above. The wines are made from glera and are, in our experience, superbly refreshing. If you're keen on trying Prosecco non Filtrato, have a look at one of our bestsellers here.
Want to try it all? Shop our fizz collection now!