Intro to Sparkling Wine

Tray of sparkling rose wine

We cannot believe that harvest is just around the corner! Our wineries and growers will be harvesting grapes for sparkling wines any day now. The 2019 harvest hasn’t been as rushed as previous years, allowing the fruit to have more hang-time and develop those coveted, complex flavors winemakers love. Sparkling winegrapes, like chardonnay, are harvested first to ensure lower sugar levels and to maintain the crisp acidity in the final product.

There are a few methods to making sparkling wine, but in this blog we’ll be focusing on the most popular approach in Dry Creek ValleyMéthode Champenoise or the traditional method. The most important facet of the traditional method is that the transformation from a still to a sparkling wine occurs entirely inside the bottle.

Wait, why don’t we call it champagne?

Wines made in Dry Creek Valley, or anywhere besides the Champagne region in France, cannot carry the legendary namesake without being grand-fathered in (like our neighbors in Russian River Valley – Korbel). You’ll find different names for different sparkling wines all over the world like Cava in Spain or Prosecco in Italy that each require by law a different process to be able to carry the appropriate name.

There are essentially seven steps (according to Wine Folly) that go into every bottle of Sparkling wine made in the Traditional Method.

    1. Base Wine or “Cuvée”: grapes are picked and fermented into a dry wine. The winemaker then takes the various base wines and blends them together into what the French call a “cuvée”, which is the final sparkling wine blend.
    2. Tirage: Yeast and sugars are added to the cuvée to start the second fermentation and wines are bottled (and topped with crown caps).
    3. 2nd Fermentation: (inside the bottle) The second fermentation adds about 1.3% more alcohol and the process creates CO2 which is trapped inside the bottle thus carbonating the wine. The yeast dies in a process called autolysis and remain in the bottle.
    4. Aging: Wines are aged on their lees (the autolytic yeast particles) for a period of time to develop texture in the wine.
    5. Riddling: Clarification occurs by settling the bottle upside down and the dead yeast cells collect in the neck of the bottle.
    6. Disgorging: Removing sediment from bottle. The bottles are placed upside down into freezing liquid which causes the yeast bits to freeze in the neck of the bottle. The crown cap is then popped off momentarily which allows the frozen chunk of lees to shoot out of the pressurized bottle.
    7. Dosage: A mixture of wine and sugar  is added to fill bottles and then bottles are corked, wired and labeled.

Where can I find Sparkling Wine in Dry Creek Valley?

We have some incredible sparkling wine producers in Dry Creek Valley, but because the process of making these bubbly wines is timely and expensive, it comes in very limited quantities and goes almost instantly. When you see one of these wineries debut their sparkling wines – jump on it!

You’ll find a range of sparkling wines from traditional Blanc de Blanc to Sparkling Grenache and some incredible blends in between.

Sort by Wines on our Winery page for a start.

Add Some “Sparkle” to Your Vocabulary:

Blanc de Blanc – sparkling wine made from only white winegrape varieties

Blanc de Noir – sparkling wine made from red winegrape varieties

Brut -A dry sparkling wine, containing very little sweetness. This is the most popular kind of sparkling wine; typically enjoyed before or during meals.

Demi-sec – A sweet style of sparkling wine.

Non-vintage – when grapes blended from more than one harvest are used to make sparkling wine it is called non-vintage, or NV.

Champagne Glasses vs Flutes infographic by Wine Folly



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