The bad old days of too much respect for sparkling are behind us – thanks to the explosion of bubbly at everyday prices, and our new found passion for celebration. Today, you’re not cool if you’re not pouring Prosecco.
Not only are we enjoying a great selection, but great quality too. And some of it is local – even The County is surprising and delighting us with its bubbles. Is there an end to the need for high-priced Champagne? I certainly won’t be buying any this Holiday Season. Along with millions of others who have discovered the seriously less expensive alternatives
Before I get into my picks, let me try and clear up the confusion over why some sparklers cost $14, while others are $68? The simple answer is wines crafted in the traditional method, such as Champagne, (second fermentation in bottle) tend to be more expensive than those that use a simpler method. This traditional method is labour intensive with 2-3 years of ageing involved. Local producers tell me they need to get about $30 a bottle, and more, if there’s longer ageing involved.
The much higher price for Champagne is due to the enormous costs of promoting a prestige brand. And the need to be ‘expensive’. The Prada and Rolex world.
Some long established sparkling regions however, manage to deliver the traditional-method for $20, and in the case of Spain, for $15. Something to do with being mortgage/debt free. And not giving a damn about prestige.
An alternative way to produce Sparkling wines is the short-cut, tank method – called Charmat. These, ready-in-a-year bubbly, such as Prosecco, are naturally are inexpensive. But some producers are milking the Prosecco trend and overcharging in the hope you’re imagining something special.
There is probably no other wine-style where price is a less reliable indicator of quality. And where the difference between a good $15 and $55 bottle is so slight. So why ever pay more than $15? Sometimes the occasion needs to be celebrated with a more expensive bottle. Cava wont cut it!
GENERALLY SPEAKING I would prescribe the more fruity, easy-drinking Prosecco for parties and casual times, and the more austere, yeasty traditional style for aperitif – to kick-off the evening and dinner. However, often there is a blurring of the lines between the styles, so I’m arranging my recommendation by how they feel, rather than their production method.
FYI: If you like your sparkling bone dry, look for the word BRUT on the label.
The designation TRADITIONAL METHOD, tells you that the bubbles are produced by a second fermentation in the bottle. Wineries worldwide have agreed to no longer used the designation Champagne Method as the French are very protective of that name.
CAVA is the word for Spanish sparkling crafted in the Traditional Method.