Sweet Sparkling Wine Primer

Karen Frazier
sparkling wine

Sweet sparkling wine is not just for celebrations or for wine novices who are looking for a sweeter wine. These delightful glasses of fun can be pure heaven on the palate anytime, and you can enjoy sweet sparkling wines with or without food.

Identifying Sweet Sparkling Wine

If you check the label on any bottle of wine, you can immediately tell if you are getting a sparkling or sweet variety. Sparkling wines range from dry to sweet. The actual sweetness of the wine is determined by the amount of residual sugar that is left in the wine when it is bottled. The following terms will help you decipher what is inside the bottle.

  • Sweet / Doux / Dolce / Dulce: This type of wine is the sweetest you can get. It is made from grapes containing the most sugar (3.3 to 5 percent). It is perfect to serve as a dessert wine.
  • Off-dry/demi-sec/ amabile / semi-seco: This is a medium-sweet wine.
  • Extra sec: 1.2 to 2 percent residual sugar makes for a slightly sweet wine.
  • Extra dry: This label indicates a sweeter wine than Brut. This type can be served as an apéritif.
  • Brut: If you see Brut on the label, this means that the wine is not sweet. It is the most popular type of sparkling wine, since it pairs well with most foods.

Sweet Sparkling Wines Around the World

Virtually any grape varietal can be used to make sparkling wines. Many sparking wines are made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Blanc grapes, and these grapes can be made into a demi-sec sparkling wine. In sparkling wines made using the méthode champenoise (the traditional French method for making Champagne), the sweetness comes from a winemaking process called dosage, in which the winemakers add a little sugar or grape juice back to the wine before it is bottled. Other wines may adjust sweetness by choosing sweeter grapes, such as Moscato. You'll find sweet sparkling wines available from around the world.

Sweet sparkling wine with a strawberry

Sweet Sparkling Wines From France

In France, You'll find many Champagne producers make a sweeter demi-sec version. Wines not from the Champagne region and/or not produced with the méthode champenoise may be labeled as Crémant or Mousseaux depending on the method used to make them.

Italian Sweet Sparkling Wine

You'll find a few different sweet sparkling wines from Italy, ranging from a sweet Prosecco to a lightly sweet Lambrusco or Moscato d'Asti.

German Sparkling Wines That Are Sweet

In Germany, sparkling wine is called Sekt. Sekt wine may be made from Riesling or other German wine grapes. Sweet Sekt wines are labeled as semi-dry or mild. Try Over the Moon semi-dry Sekt from Rheingau, Germany.

Sweet Sparkling Spanish Wine

Spanish sparkling wines are called Cava, and they range from dry to sweet. The sweetest wines are labeled "dulce". Try Anna de Codorniu Dulce, an affordable sweet Cava.

Other Sparkling Sweet Wines

Selecting an excellent sweet sparking wine really depends upon your personal preference for the balance of sweetness against the acidity.

How to Serve Sweet Sparkling Wines

Once you've selected your perfect bottle, take special care to enhance its character by correct chilling and serving.

Serving Temperature

A sparkling wine is best when chilled. The wine should be about 45 degrees when served - usually the result of a fridge chill of three or four hours or overnight. If the wine is too warm, it will have a lot of foam when opened and the taste will not be as good as a wine that is served at a cooler temperature. For a quicker chill, resist the urge to put the wine in the freezer. Instead, pack the bottle with ice in the sink or an ice bucket.

Glassware

To maintain the bubbly nature of the wine, use Champagne flutes, just as you would for any other sparkling wine. The wider the surface area of the wine, the faster the bubbles will dissipate.

Pouring

Allowing the sparkle to shine on your palette starts with how you pour the wine into the glass. As soon as the wine touches the glassware, it will start to return to lose its chill and bubble. By holding the neck of the bottle, you can tilt the bottle and glass at the same time, pouring small amounts of the wine down the inside of the glass. This keeps the wine bubbly and cool while minimizing any residual foam.

Enjoy a Sweet Sparkler

Sweet sparkling wines do not have to be saved for special occasions. Due to their affordability, you can enjoy them any time of year. They are a refreshing alternative to a classic glass of wine and the bubbles always make them feel slightly celebratory.

Sweet Sparkling Wine Primer