Sparkling Red Wine

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Sparkling Red Wine

In most countries the word “champagne” is reserved only for the specific type of sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France. The French terms “Mousseux” or “Crémant” are used to refer to sparkling wine not made in the Champagne region, such as Blanquette de Limoux produced in Southern France. Sparkling wines are also produced in other regions of France as well as other countries around the world. These sparkling wines are often referred to by their local name or region, such as Espumante from Portugal, Cava from Spain, Franciacorta, Trento DOC, Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico and Asti from Italy (the generic Italian term for sparkling wine being spumante) and Cap Classique from South Africa. Sparkling wine have also been produced in Central and Eastern Europe since the early 19th-century. “Champagne” was further popularised in the region, late in the century, when József Törley started production in Hungary using French methods, learned as an apprentice in Reims. Törley has since become one of the largest European producers of sparkling wine. The United States is also a significant producer of sparkling wine today, with producers in numerous states. Recently production of sparkling wine have started in the United Kingdom again, after a long hiatus since some of the earliest examples of sparkling wine was produced there.

Sparkling Red Wine

Sparkling wines produced in the United States can be made in both the méthode champenoise and the charmat method. Lower cost sparkling wines, such as André, Cook’s, and Tott’s, often employ the latter method with more premium sparkling wines utilizing the former. The history of producing quality sparkling wine in California can be traced to the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County where, in 1892, the Korbel brothers (emigrated from Bohemia in 1852) began producing sparkling wine according to the méthode champenoise. The first wines produced were made from Riesling, Muscatel, Traminer and Chasselas grapes. Partly aided by the foreign influence, the overall quality of Californian sparkling wine increased with the introduction of the more traditional sparkling wine grapes of Chardonnay, Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier and Pinot blanc into the production. US AVA requirements and wine laws do not regulate the sugar levels and sweetness of wine though most producers tend to follow European standards with Brut wine having less than 1.5% sugar up to Doux having more than 5%. As the sparkling wine industry in California grew, foreign investments from some of the Champagne region’s most noted Champagne houses came to set up wineries in the area. These include Moët et Chandon’s Domaine Chandon, Louis Roederer’s Roederer Estate, and Taittinger’s Domaine Carneros.

Sparkling Red Wine

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The primary fermentation of sparkling wine begins like most other wines, though winemakers may choose to use specially cultivated sparkling wine yeasts. The wines may go through malolactic fermentation, though producers wishing to make fruitier, simpler wines will usually forgo this step. After fermentation the base wines are then blended to form a cuvee. While there are examples of varietal sparkling wines, such as blanc de blancs (white of whites) made from 100% Chardonnay, most sparkling wines are blends of several grape varieties, vineyards and vintages. Producers with wide access to grapes will use wines from several hundred base wines to create a blend that reflect the “house style” of their non-vintage wine. It is through the initiation of a secondary fermentation that distinguishes sparkling wine production and gives the wine its characteristic “bubbles”. One of the by products of fermentation is the creation of carbon dioxide gas. While this gas is able to be released during the first fermentation, efforts are taken during the second fermentation to retain the gas and have it dissolve into the wine. This creates a high pressure within the wine bottle (on average around 5 atmospheres) and wine producers take care to package the wine in strong glass bottles. When the wine is open and poured into a glass, the gas is released and the wine becomes sparkling.

Sparkling Red Wine

Sparkling wine is a wine with significant levels of carbon dioxide in it, making it fizzy. The best known example of a sparkling wine is champagne, which is exclusively produced in the Champagne region of France. Also in Italy there are a lot of sparkling wines like Franciacorta, Prosecco. Usually sparkling wine is white or rosé but there are examples of red sparkling wines such as the Italian Brachetto, the Italian Bonarda, Australian sparkling Shiraz, and Azerbaijani “Pearl of Azerbaijan” made from Madrasa grapes. The sweetness of sparkling wine can range from very dry “brut” styles to sweeter “doux” varieties (from the French words for ‘raw’ and ‘sweet’, respectively).

Sparkling Red Wine

While the majority of sparkling wines are white or rosé, Australia, Italy and Moldova all have a sizable production of red sparkling wines. Of these Italy have the longest tradition of red sparkling wine, such as Brachetto and semi sparkling Lambrusco. In Australia, red sparkling wine are often made from the Shiraz grape. “Pearl of Azerbaijan” is a kind of red sparkling wine made from Madrasa grapes in Azerbaijan.

Sparkling Red Wine

The viticultural and winemaking practices of making sparkling wine have many similarities to the production of still wine with some noted divergence. At the vineyard, grapes are harvested early when there is still high acid levels. In areas like Australia, winemakers aim to harvest the grapes at 17 to 20° brix. Unlike still wine production, high sugar levels are not ideal and grapes destined for sparkling wine production may be harvested at higher yields. Care is taken to avoid tannins and other phenolic compounds with many premium producers still choosing to harvest by hand rather than risk mechanical harvesting which may split the berries and encourage maceration between the skins and juice. The press house is often close by the vineyard to where the grapes can be quickly pressed and separated from their skins. Red wine grapes like Pinot noir can be used in the production of white sparkling wines because their juice is initially clear and is only later tinted red through exposure to the color pigments in grape skins. While some skin exposure may be desirable in the production of rosé sparkling wines and some blanc de noirs (white of blacks), most sparkling wine producers take extended precautions to limit the amount of skin contact.

Sparkling Red Wine

Australian sparkling wine production has come a long way in a very short period of time with several notable French Champagne houses investing in production. Tasmania is the current hot bed of Australian Sparkling wine with both the traditional grape varieties and method of secondary fermentation being employed. Whilst most sparkling wine is produced from Chardonnay, Pinot noir and possibly Pinot Meuniere, an Australian speciality is sparkling Shiraz, a red sparkling wine produced from Shiraz grapes. Most sparkling Shiraz is traditionally somewhat sweet, but some producers make it dry, full-bodied and tannic.

Sparkling Red Wine

The British were the first to see the tendency of wines from Champagne to sparkle as a desirable trait and tried to understand why it produced bubbles. Wine was often transported to England in wooden wine barrels where merchant houses would then bottle the wine for sale. During the 17th century, English glass production used coal-fueled ovens and produced stronger, more durable glass bottles than the wood-fired French glass. The English also rediscovered the use of cork stoppers, once used by the Romans but forgotten for centuries after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. During the cold winters of the Champagne region, temperatures would drop so low that the fermentation process was prematurely halted—leaving some residual sugar and dormant yeast. When the wine was shipped to and bottled in England, the fermentation process would restart when the weather warmed and the cork-stoppered wine would begin to build pressure from carbon dioxide gas. When the wine was opened, it would be bubbly. In 1662, the English scientist Christopher Merret presented a paper detailing how the presence of sugar in a wine led to it eventually sparkling and that by adding sugar to a wine before bottling it, nearly any wine could be made to sparkle. This is one of the first known accounts of understanding the process of sparkling wine and even suggests that British merchants were producing “sparkling Champagne” before the French Champenois were deliberately making it.

Chile produces around 12 million bottles of sparkling wine per annum of which only around 1.6 million bottles are exported to overseas markets. Although sparkling wines have been made since 1879, they have not yet established a significant place in Chile’s wine portfolio. In recent years, the Pais grape variety has been creatively employed on its own or in blends, to make modern wines that have received favorable reviews. A rise in consumer demand and an ever-broadening selection of cool climate grapes has led to an increase in fresh and delightful sparkling wines ranging from bone dry extra brut to off-dry demi-secs, from blanc de blanc to blanc de noir to sparkling rosé. Valdivieso produce 60% of all sparkling wine in Chile. Most is inexpensive tank method fizz, but 20% is very good quality Champagne method from Pinot and Chardonnay. There is also a product made from a blend of sparkling Pinot wine and fresh handpicked strawberry pulp.

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