Sparkling Wines are a rich and diverse category and it’s important to note that not all of them are expensive. There are many ways to categorise sparkling wines - by country, by sweetness, by grape varietal - but to keep it simple we will divide them into just two styles: Fruity Sparkling Wines, like Asti and Proseco, and Complex Sparkling Wines, like Champagne and Cava.
Fruity Sparkling Wines include all sparkling wines made with the primary aim of expressing the fruitiness of the grapes used. They are made using fairly simple, and quick methods, like Charmat. These wines are fruity and uncomplicated, without the layers of complexity found in Champagne and many wines made using the Methode Traditionelle process. They are generally less expensive than complex sparkling wines and can be found from under $10. Some fruity sparkling wines are very fruity and others less so, but they all are easy drinking and fresh. They are typically frothy and effervescent, and many tend to be sweeter in style - especially the lower cost, mass produced sparkling wines. The quickest and least expensive way to make sparkling wines is using the Charmat, or “closed-tank” method, to produce the bubbles. The winemaker introduces a second fermentation of the base wine in large, closed, pressurised tanks, where carbon dioxide can be trapped and dissolved into the wine.
Complex Sparkling Wines on the other hand are more subtle, less fruity and they have a greater range of flavours and aromas than fruity style sparkling wines. These are much more serious wines to be savoured and appreciated, and warrant aging. They are also generally more expensive as every step in the process of making them is more time consuming and costly for the producer. The style of these complex sparkling wines is dependent upon where they are grown as well as the elaborate production process that involves conducting a secondary fermentation in bottle followed by the ageing of those bottles for many years. This complex process is known as the methode champenoise or methode traditionelle process. It always involves a long, slow second fermentation that produces the wines bubbles within individual bottles. This is a much more time consuming and costly method of producing bubbles in the wine than tank fermentation. The result is a much more elegant sparkling wine with complex flavours and a lengthy finish. It also produces much more refined bubbles.