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Sparkling wines are carbonated wines with a certain amount of carbon dioxide. The carbonation results either from natural fermentation or carbon dioxide injection.

Depending on the country of origin most of the following requirements have to be fulfilled for sparkling wines.

  • The country of origin should appear on the label.
  • The alcohol content should be above 9.5 %.
  • Carbon dioxide pressure should be above 3 bar.
  • The sulphuric acid content should not be higher than 235 milligram.

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Production of sparkling wines

Sparkling wine is always produced from new wine, right after its first fermentation. The new wine is often mixed with other wines from several grape varieties, terroirs and vintages to receive the so-called cuvée. This cuvée guarantees a constant quality of the sparkling wine, irrespective of harvest and vintage. A cuvée may be mixed from up to 30 different wines. The most important characteristic of a sparkling wine is the second fermentation. It is induced through the addition of a dosage, usually a mixture of wine, yeast and sugar. Depending on the dosage the production method varies.

The following methods are used for the production of sparkling wines:

  • Méthode champenoise (Traditional method, Champagne method)
  • Bottle fermentation (Transfer method)
  • Charmat process (Tank fermentation)

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Storage of sparkling wines

Sparkling wines are fully ripened when they are sold. Further storage und does not usually improve them and is recommended for a limited time only. To maintain its quality during storage it should be kept in a dark and cool place. Storage temperatures of 10 to 15 degrees Celsius are considered to be best. Sparkling wines with plastic stoppers can be stored standing up without any problems. They should be used within three years though. Sparkling wines with cork stoppers have to be stored lying down, since the cork is not allowed to dry out. These sparkling wines may be stored for five to eight years.

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Residual sugar in sparkling wines

Since carbon dioxide balances the sugar in sparkling wines, the content of residual sugar is higher than in other wines. Classifications for dryness in sparkling wines sometimes overlap. See also: Residual sugar contents in wine.

  • Brut nature: (no added sugar) up to 3 g/l
  • Extra brut: up to 6 g/l
  • Brut: up to 15 g/l
  • Extra dry, Extra sec, Extra seco: 12  20 g/l
  • Dry, Sec, Seco: 17  35 g/l
  • Demi-sec, Semi-seco: 33  50 g/l
  • Doux, Sweet, Dulce: more than 50 g/l

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Sparkling wines in France

The origin of sparkling wine lies in France and the best-known sparkling wine of the world is certainly Champagne. It must be produced in the Champagne region of France using grapes from the area and the méthode champenoise.

Sparkling wine from other areas in France are called Crémant, especially when it is produced in the Alsace area, or Vin mousseux or Mousseux, when it is produced in Burgundy or the Loire area.

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Sparkling wines in Germany

German sparkling wine is generally known as Sekt. This term was invented in 1925 and registered as a trademark. Today the term Sekt is the term for a German sparkling wine qualification but may also be used for certain sparkling wines from other countries. German sparkling wine has three classifications:

Schaumwein, which is the lowest classification and also the generic term for all sparkling wines, Qualitätsschaumwein or Sekt (both are identical and stand for a quality sparkling wine) and Qualitätsschaumwein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (quality sparkling wine of a specific region).

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Sparkling wine in Italy

In Italy sparkling wine is produced in many areas and is known as Spumante. While some winemakers use the traditional method, most Italian producers work with the Charmat method. The best-known Italian sparkling wine is Asti spumante, which is produced in the area south of the town of Asti in Piedmont.

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Sparkling wine in Spain


Sparkling wines produced in certain regions of Spain are known as Cava. They may be white or pink and must be produced according to the traditional méthode champenoise.

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Sparkling wines in South Africa

Sparkling wines from South Africa that are produced after the traditional méthode champenoise are called Cap Classique. The grapes for these wines are harvested in certain regions around the Cape. Quality standards for Cap Classique are high and are enforced by the Cap Classique Producers Association (CCPA).

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American sparkling wines

Sparkling wines made in the US may be produced after the traditional champagne method or the cheaper Charmat method. Price and quality are determined partly by the used method. All premium US sparkling wines are produced according to the traditional method. US wine laws do not regulate the sugar content of sparkling wines but most producers follow European standards.

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Sparkling wines from Australia and New Zealand

Although mostly produced from red Pinot Noir grapes, most Australian sparkling wines are white. Some winemakers produce unusual red varieties though. Shiraz grapes are the most common grape variety for red sparkling wines from Australia. They are a favourite with many Australians and are popular for festive occasions. Australian sparkling wines are produced after the traditional method, the Charmat method or the transfer method, which is a mix of both.

Excellent sparkling wines are also produced in the Marlborough region of New Zealand. They are produced according to the traditional Champagne method.

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Other sparkling wines and carbonated wines

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History of sparkling wines

Sparkling wines seem to have been invented during Roman times. Controlled fermentation was only dreamt of during these times and many sparkling wines turned out sour and undrinkable. When the Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon became cellarmaster of the abbey of Hautsillers in 1668, he was able to invent several techniques over the years to improve and control the effervescent wine. He invented the cuvée to give the Champagne constant quality. His research disclosed many secrets of the fermentation processes and showed winemakers of the time how to control these processes within the barrels and bottles. Since this time the inventions of Dom Pérignon have been refined and improved, for example the preparation of the cuvée and the addition of sugar and wine yeast to the second fermentation. The main principles of sparkling wine production on the other hand have not changed until today. Travelling winemakers brought the secrets of Champagne production to other countries. In the beginning many called their products Champagne after the French original but after the First World War the Treaty of Versailles decreed that only sparkling wines from the Champagne region in France could be called such.

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