Do you know your perlé from your Prosecco, your Cava from your crémant or any of
these from Champagne?
We all know that sparkling
wine gets its bubbles from
CO2, that Champagne is
fermented twice (the second
time in bottle) and can only
come from Champagne,
that small region in northeastern France. Or do we?
And what about some of the
other bubbly personalities out
there? Where do they come
from? How are they made?
Which one is for you? We
take a browse through our
sparkling and Champagne
selection, pointing out some
of the differences in style and
explaining some of the terms
along the way. And of course
we suggest some truly
sparkling examples to
kick-start your fizz-ical
View our range of sparkling wines and Champagnes
View our current offer of premium Champagne starting at under £20 a bottle
(also known as, méthode artisanale,
rurale, or in Portugal, método antigo)
Limoux, in the foothills of
the Pyrenees, is thought to be the
birthplace of sparkling wine,
predating Champagne by almost a
century. In 1531 a Benedictine monk
in the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire
discovered that the wine he had
bottled had started bubbling again.
The wine undergoes just one
fermentation (in bottle), and ends up
being only lightly sparkling and lowish
in alcohol and usually a little sweet,
with a gorgeous flavour of baked
apples. It's a notoriously tricky
production method, so only small
quantities are made.
The Antech family's
Blanquette de Limoux Méthode
Ancestrale, Antech NV is one of the best
from the area made from the local
Delicious served with
fruit-based desserts or lightly spiced
Blanquette is simply the
word for 'white' in Occitan, the
ancient language of southern France,
and the name traditionally given to
the sparkling whites of Limoux.
Unless made by the method
described above, these are wines
made by the traditional (Champagne)
method (of second fermentation in
bottle – see below), producing more
fizz, higher alcohol and drier wine,
but crucially the local mauzac grape
must make up 90% of the mix, giving
it that same palate-cleansing hint of
apple on the finish.
Compare and contrast the
Antech family's Blanquette de
Limoux Réserve, Antech 2014, or magnums for
Perfect party starter for serving with savoury nibbles
The region best known for
Spain's most famous sparkling wine is
Catalunya ('cava' means 'cellar' in
Catalan), but it can actually come
from anywhere in the country.
This is top-quality traditional
(Champagne)-method wine. The
best, like Champagne, spend longer
than the minimum nine months in
bottle on its lees (the sediment left
over after the second fermentation).
The longer this lasts, the finer the
bubbles and the creamier the taste!
The Society's Cava
Reserva Brut NV is made of the
traditional trio of local grapes
parellada, macabeo and xarel-lo
and stays a whopping 30 months
on the lees giving it a lovely richness,
like toasted brioche, a fragrant aroma
and zippy bone-dry flavour.
First-class fizz for Christmas
parties (and converting your
(also known outside Champagne as
traditional method, méthode
traditionnelle, método tradicional,
This, the most meticulous
method of making sparkling wine may
only be attributed to the wines made
by second fermentation in bottle that
come from the Champagne
region of France. The technique –
the traditional method, as it must
officially be called – is now widely
used for top-quality fizz throughout
the world, but if the wine is not from
Champagne, then it isn't Champagne!
The key is that the bottle you
buy is the same one that the wine has
spent its life in, after the bottling
following first fermentation (when
grape juice is turned into wine).
There are many fancy words for the
seemingly mystical process involved,
but it's the quality of the original wine
which counts, then the amount of
time the wine spends ageing on its
lees in that bottle – 12 months for
Non-Vintage Champagne and three
years for Vintage Champagne (where
the grapes are the product of one
There are many different
styles of wine made by this classic
method, why not try the attractively
priced Jean de Foigny Brut
Premier Cru NV and contrast it with a new
world traditional-method wine like
the creamy-textured Californian
Quartet Anderson Valley Brut
made by Champagne house Roederer.
Classic and classy for
the price, the Jean de Foigny
Champagne is great to have on
hand for celebrations, big and small.
Fuller and more fruity and richer
in style, the Quartet isn't just for
toasting and would be a lovely festive
sparkling wines (made by the
traditional method) outside
Champagne, crémant literally
means 'creamy'. Most of the
principal regions have their
crémant. We tend to follow
those of Limoux (made with
more chardonnay than the
Blanquette above), Loire, Jura
and occasionally Alsace.
You've got the message
by now! The same labourintensive techniques are used
as in Champagne production.
The key difference is the mix of
grapes used which will vary
from region to region.
Celebration Crémant de
Loire 2014 from our oldest
suppliers Gratien and Meyer in
Saumur is pretty hard to beat
for value and flavour. While
chardonnay makes up half the
blend, the Loire character
comes shining through with the
inclusion of chenin blanc, pinot
noir and a little cabernet franc
giving it a distinctive, almost
As the name suggests,
this is the perfect sparkler for
celebrations, but that addition
of chenin blanc gives a lively citrus
kick making it food-friendly too.
Lovely with the local Loire rillettes –
pâtés of pork, goose or fish.
This rarity comes from
the village of Cramant in the heart of
the Côte des Blancs, the area of
Champagne renowned for the quality
of its chardonnay grapes. It has a long
tradition of making this more gently
bubbly style of Champagne.
A little less sugar (dosage)
is added for the second fermentation
in bottle so the bubbles produced
make for a lighter mousse than you
usually get in Champagne.
Lilbert Grand Cru Blanc
de Blancs Perlé NV, as a blanc de blancs
('white from white', and so made
from 100% chardonnay), Lilbert Perlé
is light and elegant, with notes of
brioche and toast on the nose and
a generous, yet fresh palate.
A special treat, especially
for those who find traditional
Champagne too fizzy, the perfect
aperitif or accompaniment to
canapés. Oysters are a classic
combination or try with delicate fish
or crab dishes.
Pétillant just means
lightly sparkling in French but this
style is a speciality of the Vouvray
region of the Loire where the chenin
blanc grape has the perfect profile
for sparkling wine production.
It partly owes its existence to the
shortage of Champagne during the
First World War.
Made by the traditional
method but with about half the
atmospheric pressure of most
sparkling wine. It takes great skill and
fastidious attention to detail to
achieve this and, because the wine
is less fizzy (and more wine-y),
there is no room for imperfection
(bubbles can trick the tastebuds!)
Domaine Huet, the stars of
Vouvray, are specialists in this style,
making a very refined wine and
giving it more than three years'
ageing in their limestone cellars,
allowing an almost opulent honeyed
flavour to develop, complemented
by apple freshness. The 2012
Vouvray Pétillant Brut has a fine mousse
and complex flavours.
A stylish aperitif but this
style also works well with food
because of its vinosity, compared
with other sparkling wines: try with
poached chicken or fish dishes.
Italy's (and the world's!)
popular sparkler comes from the
regions of Veneto and Friuli-VeneziaGiulia in the north-east of the
country. Confusingly, the grape, now
known as glera, which must make up
85% of the wine, was also called
'prosecco' up until 2010.
Prosecco can actually be
tranquillo (still), frizzante (semisparkling), or spumante (properly
sparkling and the one we see most).
The bubbly stuff is made by the
Charmat method where the second
fermentation, the one that makes
the bubbles, takes place in a
pressurised stainless-steel tank.
Though not as labour-intensive
as making sparkling wine by the
traditional method, it's a highly
technical process and the challenge
is to keep all the lovely fresh floral
flavours of the wine in the finished
Our Society's Prosecco comes from
a family concern who have vineyards
in some of the best plots of the
region and take great care to make a
really enjoyable wine with a pleasing
lightness of touch.
Prosecco is the traditional
wine to serve with cake in Italy, but
they also seem to have it at almost
any hour, even for breakfast in the
hotels! While we couldn't possibly
condone that, it's perfect to get the
party started, with or without
nibbles or cake. (Find out more about The Society's Prosecco and the Prosecco phenomenon in a Travels in Wine trip to the region.)
Find out more about Champagne in our regional guide