The world of sparkling wine is evolving, and two emerging trends are key. First, a glass of bubbles is no longer reserved for special occasions. Much like still wine, sparkling is a drink that’s now enjoyed at breakfast, brunch or simply as an aperitif. The second trend involves the rise of new contenders to the throne currently occupied by champagne, the reigning king of sparkling wines.
While champagne’s effervescent supremacy is unquestionable, Matthew Lamb, group beverage manager at Lo and Behold Group, makes a case for other sparkling wines:
Winemakers from all over the globe, drawing on experience gained from Champagne and often further afield… are beginning to produce sparkling wines that can stand toe-to-toe with many from Champagne.”
Matthew Lamb, Group Beverage Manager at Lo and Behold Group
France has strict regulations for wines made there (known as Appellation d’Origine Controlee), which dictate that champagne must hail from its eponymous region and follow the time-honoured traditional method, which involves two fermentations. The first makes still base wines from a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes, and the second fermentation starts inside a sealed bottle. The wine must also be aged: a time-consuming process that creates the appealingly complex pastry and nutty notes (and price tag) that champagne is renowned for – taste it for yourself at our delightful Bubbles and Tea experience.
More French sparkling wines
Pre-champagne, bubbles were made through methode ancestrale, otherwise known as petillant-naturel (naturally sparkling). The fizz comes from bottling the wine while the first fermentation is still ongoing.
The process completes in the sealed bottles, leaving a soft effervescence and often, a cloudy wine. Pet-nat – as petillant-naturel is widely known today – is wildly popular in the natural wine movement as it uses wild yeast and minimal intervention. Some of the best pet-nats today come from France’s Loire Valley and Limoux regions.
Keeping up with the French in England
We can thank global warming for kickstarting sparkling wine production across the channel in the unlikeliest of countries, England. Most vineyards here are planted in the southern counties of Kent, Surrey, and Sussex on chalky soils, much like those in Champagne. “When we first started, champagne was very much a wine style we were trying to emulate,” says Simon Roberts, head winemaker at Ridgeview Estate, an English sparkling wine producer. “With time, we began to realise that our sparkling wine had its own unique attributes worth celebrating.”
Wines in England benefit from a longer ripening season, which results in crunchy ripe-apple and citrus notes and a characteristically distinct acidity. In addition to Ridgeview Estate, Nyetimber (which was served at Prince William and Catherine Middleton’s wedding), Gusbourne and boutique winery, Sugrue, all deliver notable examples.
Italian sparkling wines
Italy offers two sparklers – Franciacorta and Prosecco. While both hail from the Northern regions of Italy, they couldn’t be more different.
Franciacorta, made in the image of champagne, presents fine beads of bubbles, ripe orchard-fruit notes and yeasty complexity from bottle fermentation.
Prosecco, meanwhile, is made with local glera grapes (previously called prosecco) and follows the infinitely cheaper Charmat method.
It calls for the second fermentation in a pressurised tank and offers simple fruity and floral notes: think ripe lemons and peaches underpinned by a gentle, softer mousse. Hailing from Veneto, this easy-drinking sparkling wine appeals to the many drinkers who prefer a little sweetness or softness on the palate. A delightful way to enjoy this quintessential Italian sparkling wine is at DayAway’s Sensory Indulgence with Maison 21G experience, where you can sip prosecco while designing your own custom-blended perfume.
Recently, prosecco made its foray into the pink wine market with the launch of the sparkling prosecco rosé. The addition of 10-15% pinot nero (the Italian version of pinot noir) imparts a beautiful Provencal-pink colour, grapefruit, and red berry notes along with floral aromas.
Look for bottles hailing from the classico region of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene. Further up the slopes of this DOCG (the highest designation for Italian wines) region, Prosecco gets rarefied in its single village bottlings distinguished by the word ‘Rive di’ or at the highest level, Cartizze.
Spanish sparkling wines express their unique terroir
In Spain, the sparkling wine known as cava has upgraded its image from a cheap stand-in for champagne to a terroir-specific expression of Penedes, Catalonia, where the vast majority of cava comes from. Crafted using Spain’s indigenous grapes of xarel-lo, parellada and macabeo and finished in the traditional method, the wines capture intriguing herbal and spice notes, as well as orchard fruits and citrus skins. Cava also has a softer acidity as Penedes’ climate is much warmer than Champagne – try this for yourself at DayAway’s indulgent free-flow cava experience at Duxton Reserve. Chardonnay and pinot noir grapes are sometimes also used here to bring finesse and longevity to the wines. One of the region’s finest producers is Gramona, which hand-harvests its grapes and practises sustainable and biodynamic viticulture.
Exciting sparkling wines from the New World
Cherie Ball, Director of the specialist South African wines retailer, Wine To Share, says, “Most consumers don’t know that the sparkling wines made with “methode cap classique” (a South African term) are actually made using the same traditional method as Champagne.” The wines, made with champagne grapes, are an “undiscovered gem” offering high quality-to-price ratios, even with high-end producers like Le Lude, which is dedicated solely to sparkling wine production.
From Australia, “Tasmania can validly lay claim as the Australian frontrunner, on both a viability and quality perspective,” says Lamb. He says that while the region has just come out of its infancy, it offers “great potential” for sparkling wine production.
Tasmanian producers such as House of Arras are lauded by critics worldwide, while Deutz, from across the Tasman in New Zealand, offers good examples of sparkling rosé and blanc de blanc.
There are more worthy examples of sparkling wine from India, China, Napa Valley in California, Germany and beyond just waiting to be discovered. Which will you try next?
Ready to embark on your sparkling wine journey? Start with an effervescent flute of champagne at our Bubbles and Tea experience at Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay, then move on to a delightful prosecco at DayAway’s Sensory Indulgence with Maison 21G experience, before concluding with a bubbly glass of Spanish cava at DayAway’s indulgent free-flow cava experience at Duxton Reserve. Let us know on Facebook and Instagram (@dayawayofficial) which sparkling wine is your favourite!