The slow hiss of pressure’s gentle release or the sharp pop of a cork’s liberation? Sparkling wine’s effervescent lift sets it apart (dare we say, elevates it) on the global wine stage. Mythologized by Champagne and popularized by Prosecco, lift your glass and savor this abridged but fascinating overview about pressure in a bottle.
Obscured by the haze of time and romanticism, we look to France for sparkling wine’s origin story. The Abbey of Saint-Hilaire in Languedoc’s Limoux boasts written records of sparkling wine production and shipping dating back to 1531. We’re not here to litigate if Dom Perignon said, “come quick, I’m tasting the stars.” Still, it is reasonable that a visit to Saint-Hilaire years before would have ensured his awareness and education in the methode ancestrale path to sparkling wine. And who hasn’t gotten excited about the beauty of the bubbles?
Methode ancestrale and the re-starting fermentation in young wines after a winter pause to fermentation and the resulting bubbles mark the start of French fizz. This lightly sweet and gently sparkling style is enjoying a modern resurgence under a new stage name of Petillant Naturel, or Pet Nat for short. The frizzante style makes for an easily enjoyed style. Small wonder the sparkling wine which seduced the globe evolved from this original ancestral production method to give us Champagne’s traditional method and Prosecco’s Charmat method.
Here’s our nod of appreciation to any all wine aficionados quietly scowling that transfer method goes unmentioned. The resident technical writer is holding that bit in-pocket for a future post about small and large formats, where that method most commonly appears in aid of bigger or more portable bubbles.
Though similar claims to sparkling wine’s origin story emanate from Italy and England, Ruinart retains the honor of being the oldest established Champagne house and holds shipping records beginning in the 1760s. Moet & Chandon brought Champagne to the court of King Louis XV, becoming the first royal supplier in 1745. Bright, clear, bracingly pure; the dainty lace of Champagne’s effervescence imbues significance by the glassful.
France’s Cremant’s are legendary in their own right. Cremant d’Alsace, Cremant de Bordeaux, Cremant de Loire, and Cremant de Bourgogne deliver Champagne’s traditional method precision paired with local grapes and personality.
Indeed, traditional method winemaking requires hand-harvesting, low yields, minimum aging times (both on the lees and pre-release), and ‘fermented in THIS bottle’ standards. Such exacting requirements confers exquisite quality sparkling wine to all Old and New World wine-producing regions.
England’s surge into the Sparkling Wine market with stand-out brands like Nyetimberdemonstrates the Old World’s appetite for new tricks. Bright, clear, crisp – Opinions may differ from coups to flutes, but the added pressure of carbon dioxide dissolved into the wine made bottle glassware crucial. English glassmaking amid the industrial revolution gave sparkling wine producers bottles that could withstand the pressure without shattering. It is exceedingly fitting that the cafe society, which offered Champagne’s its first market, now indulges in sparkling wine of its own.
From Spanish Cava to West Coast Blanc de Blancs, what began as a niche market enjoys global access and acclaim. Italy exemplifies this diverse range of styles and methods. The traditional method of Franciacorta’s Berlucchi stunningly fine wines and bright, vibrant sparkling wines from the lyrically named Prosecco Conegliano ValdobbiadeneNino Franco. Prosecco’s Charmat method evolved from the local ancestral process called col fondo and looks back to Ancient Italy’s effervescent style.
However sparkling wine speaks to you, we’re pleased to offer its celebratory abundance in keeping with the gregarious style of the bubbles themselves. Cheers, and enjoy!
Established in 2002, Benchmark Wine Group is the leading source of fine and rare wine retailers, restaurants, and collectors around the world. Based in Napa Valley, we acquire the most sought-after wines from private individuals and professional contacts, but only when provenance can be verified by our team of acquisition professionals. Our staff draws on decades of industry experience and is dedicated to providing exceptional service to all of our clients. Benchmarkwine.com offers 24-hour access to our cellar, displaying inventory in real-time.