Sweet sparking 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 can be enjoyed with or without food.
Sweet Sparkling Wine Types
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 sweet to dry. 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 words will help you decipher what is inside the bottle:
- Sweet / Demi sec: 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.
- 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.
- Extra dry: This label indicates a sweeter wine than Brut. This type can be served as an aperitif.
- Extra sec: 1.2 to 2 percent residual sugar makes for a slightly sweet wine.
Selecting Grape Varietals
Most American sparking wines are made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc grapes. California enjoys a wide variety of sparking wine options, including its rose-colored sparkling wines. The pink coloring comes from a blending of red wine, usually a Pinot Noir. The cheaper American varieties are often the sweetest.
International sparkling wines tend to be produced from local varietals. For example:
- French: Pinot Meunier is often added to make a sweeter wine. Any sparkling wine not made in the Champagne region is labeled Vins Mousseux.
- Italian: Spumante is a sparkling wine. Asti wines are made in a sweet style with Muscato grapes grown near the town of Asti.
- German and Czech: Both designate their sparkling wine as Sekt. A Sekt wine is made from a Riesling varietal.
- Australian: The sparkling wines are often made from Shiraz grapes.
- Spanish: A sweet sparkling wine is called a Cava. Dulce is the sweetest.
Balance Is Key
Selecting an excellent sweet sparking wine really depends upon your personal preference for the balance of sweetness against the acidity. Price is definitely not a differentiator since some the most highly rated are the least expensive.
Wine Enthusiast Magazine rates sparkling wines on a point scale as follows:
- Korbel NV Sweet Rosé Sparkling Blend from California: This wine is rated 88 and costs $13. It is sweet with hints of raspberry sorbet and vanilla.
- Iron Horse 2005 Wedding Cuvée Sparkling Blend from Green Valley, Sonoma, California: This wine is rated 92 and costs $38. It is a bit sweet and creamy with hints of green apples, strawberries, brioche and pepper.
- Mumm Napa NV Cuvée M Sparkling Blend from Napa Valley, California: This wine is rated 87 and costs $22. This wine is great with cake and has notes of orange, strawberry and vanilla cream.
- Törley NV Fortuna Sparkling Blend from Hungary: This wine is rated 85 and costs $10. This sweet dessert wine has hints of flowers and spice.
How to Serve
Once you've selected your perfect bottle, take special care to enhance its character by correct chilling and serving.
A sparking 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.
To maintain the bubbly nature of the wine, use narrow glassware. The wider the surface area of the wine, the faster the bubbles will dissipate. For long-lasting sparkle, serve a sweet sparkler, and all sparking wines, in a narrow flute to maintain the bubbly nature of the wine as long as possible.
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 Bubbly
Sweet sparkling wines do not have to be saved for special occasions. Due to their affordability, they can be enjoyed anytime of the year. They are a refreshing alternative to a classic glass of wine and make a special statement due to their bubbly trait. Sparkling wine, unlike Champagne, is non-vintage. This means the crafter can blend older wine with new to achieve a consistent flavor. Sparkling wines can be consumed immediately and do not need to age.