sparkling wines in bottles and glasses on wooden table

Time to Sparkle and Shine

Learn about sparkling wines and their king, Champagne, from someone who should know: Rach’s pal Rita Jammet, Chief Bubble Officer at La Caravelle Champagne (that’s her title!) and all-around wine genius.

Here's the dictionary definition of the word sparkling: "shining brightly with flashes of light." This brought a smile to my face. Thanks to my position at La Caravelle Champagne, I'm the biggest advocate of drinking sparkling wines, especially Champagne. It's not just my job, in fact, but one of my life's missions. So let me make my case.

  • Sparkling wines are uplifting and bring joy to life. There's a feeling of a party in a bottle when you pop that cork.
  • They're all about good times. And even though they're promoted around the year-end holidays, they can be enjoyed anytime of the year, just because.
  • They pair with many cuisines, flavors, and textures either by complementing the dish or by contrasting with it to bring balance. (Ask any foodie friend about Champagne and fried chicken!)
  • They almost always blend several grapes, and the bubbles make the sensorial experience a lively and complex one.
  • Not only are those magical bubbles beautiful and fun to watch rise in the glass, they also release pleasant aromas when they come to the surface.
  • I'm not saying Champagne is healthy, but it tends to be on the lower spectrum of alcohol content and calories; is full of antioxidant properties; is vegan; and is gluten-, dairy-, and fat-free. Some research suggests that when enjoyed in moderation, it may sharpen memory, longevity, and well-being.

There are two main methods of making sparkling wine: First is the traditional way, aka méthode champenoise, used in Champagne, Cava, Crémant, some Italian wines such as Franciacorta, and many non-Champagne sparkling wines from all over the world. These wines are the most sought after because they have to meet high quality standards. They're also costlier to produce, not only due to the process itself, but because of the aging time—in Champagne, the minimum required by law is 15 months. Basically, it's a two-step fermentation process: First the grape juice is turned into wine (in large stainless steel tanks and/or oak barrels), then it's blended with other wines by the winemaker (the blend is called Cuvée); next, the wine is bottled with the addition of yeast and some sugars and it goes through a second fermentation, which produces those delightful bubbles. Then the in-bottle aging begins.

The tank method, or Charmat method, is how sparklers like Prosecco and Lambrusco are made. This is less costly because the wines stay in the tanks for the second fermentation (created also by adding yeast and some sugars). The bubbles are formed and pressurize the tanks, then the wines are bottled and ready for consumption, usually without aging.

Whichever method you pick, I hope you enjoy it to the fullest. Bubbly cheers!

My Sparkling Picks

Each shines brightly, with flashes of light.

1. France

This blend of the three major grapes in Champagne (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier) is lively and balanced, with notes of apricot, brioche, and spicy pear. It's perfect with seafood, Middle Eastern food, burgers, or a bowl of pasta.

2. New Mexico

Made in the traditional method, this bright and lively 100-percent Chardonnay sparkler shows citrus, stone fruits, mineral notes, and a beautiful acidity that pairs wonderfully with sushi, oysters, deviled eggs, and cream sauces.

3. Italy

Using the Glera grape and a small amount of Chardonnay grown on the steep Valdobbiadene hillside, this blend is vibrant, with minerality, salinity, and notes of fresh pineapple and cream. It's great with oysters, a rich pizza, and cheesy pasta.

4. Spain

This organic rosé sparkler hails from a family-owned winery dating back to the 13th century. Made from the Trepat grape and Pinot Noir, it's ideal with charcuterie, fried dishes, and salty, rich foods.

5. Armenia

This sparkling wine is a blend of two Armenian white grapes, with notes of white flowers, stone fruits, and minerality, giving it depth, richness, and length. Great with salted nuts, cured meats—and fried chicken!

This article originally appeared in our Holiday 2021 issue. Get the magazine here.