Unique Sparkling Wines

Champagne often comes to mind as a necessity for ringing in and toasting the New Year.  And while many refer to any sparkling wine as Champagne, technically speaking for a sparkling wine to be called Champagne  it must come from the Champagne region of France,  it must be made using secondary fermentation of the wine in the bottle to create the carbonation and it must be made in compliance with the rules of the Champagne appellation which only allow use of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay grapes.   There are also  specific requirements with regard to pruning, vineyard yield, the degree of pressing, and the time the wine must remain on its lees before bottling.  Because of the strict rules in its production and the limited amount of wine coming from Champagne, it can be quite pricey.   The good news is that there are many options other than French Champagne for great sparkling wines.

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In 1892, after working as an apprentice in Champagne France,  József Törley decided to take the skills he had acquired in France and make sparking wine in his home country of Hungary.   Etyek-Buda, just outside of Budapest in central Hungary  is the same latitude as Champagne, has identical limestone soil and similar weather conditions  so that is where Torley decided to set up shop.  He carved cellars out of  the limestone planted vineyards and built a winery making wines that were giving him international recognition and acclaim.  The winery almost came to an end during World War II when hit by a bomb but the cellar was rebuilt and once again thrived.  In 1992 the winery was privatized and continues to make high quality wines.

Torley Fortuna $9.95  is a  sweet sparkling blend of Cserszegi Fűszeres, Muscat Ottonel, and Pearl of Csaba.   It is fermented only once in large pressurized steel tanks and the fermentation is stopped by cooling down the wine when it reaches the required sugar level.   The wine is then filtered, cold stabilized and bottled under pressure in the Charmat Method.   This sparkler is sweet yet light and has flavors of grapefruit, lime, gardenia and brioche.  It  is a great value for it’s quality

Torley Hungaria Extra Dry Rose $14.95  this sparkler is fermented and then yeast and sugar are added  and the wine is crown capped in magnums for 1.5 years.  After the aging process the sparkling wine is transferred to a pressurized tank for equalizing.  While in tank, the final dosage is added, sediment is filtered, stabilized, bottled and the wine is finally corked. The process is very similar to the Traditional Method in that the secondary fermentation happens entirely in bottle but riddling and disgorgement are not used. This sparkler is sweet but has tart cranberry and strawberry flavor and hints of spice.


Wine has been made in Slovenia since the 5th and 4th centuries BC by the Celtic and Illyrian tribes.  Today  the Slovenian wine industry is the most advanced and well developed of the former Yugoslav republics.  The majority of Slovenian wine is white and is drunk domestically.  The Karst district located near Trieste iTALY is know for Teran a rich dark higly acidic red wine considered to have medicinal properties because of its high iron content.  It used to be sold in pahrmacies to for pregnant and anemic women.

Stoka  $25  is a red sparkler made from the Teran grape in the traditional method.   Teran is one of Slovenia’s only wines of protected origin.  The high content of aluminum and iron oxide in the soil of the region gives the wines a high iron content and the wines are thought to have medicinal properties.  The vineyards are dry-farmed, fertilized only with cow manure when necessary, and worked by hand.  This sparkler has rich dense flavors with big acidity and the bubbles add a fun touch to this unique wine.

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 South Africa

In South Africa sparkling wine is generally made in the Robertson Wine Valley in Western Cape.  These sparkling wines are made in Méthode Champenoise style which in South Africa is called Methode Cap Classique often also referred to as MCC.   For Cap Classique,  grapes are harvested pressed and then the clear grape juice receives no further skin contact.   After settling, the clear juice is pumped into steel tanks for cold fermentation.  Once deemed ready, yeast  is introduced and the wine is subjected to controlled second fermentation in the bottle.  The bottles are then slanted neck downwards for remuge where the bottles are placed, in special racks to allow the lees-sediment to collect in the necks of the bottles which are regularly turned.   When all the sediment has collected in the necks of the bottles dégorgement starts and the necks are deep-frozen, the solid sediment ejected and recorking is followed by  bottle maturation, which is the final stage in the classic style of the Méthode Cap Classique.

South African Cap Classique sparklers are a  great value and have gained quite a bit of notariety.  One of the most well known and respected South African producers of sparkling wine is Graham Beck.   Graham Beck hand picks all of their grapes and uses whole bunch pressing to ensure only the highest quality of juice is extracted.  Graham Beck sparkling wine was served at South African President Nelson Mandela’s Inaugaration and at the Inaugaration of US President Barack Obama.

Graham Beck NV Brut $16.99 A blend of 53% Chardonnay and 47% Pinor Noir from  Robertson, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch vineyards. This sparkling wine has light yeast & citrus aromas.  It is fresh and crisp rounded out with a nice creaminess

Graham Beck NV Brut Rose $16.99 This fun and flirty pink sparkler is a blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir from Robertson and Stellenbosch vineyards.   It  is a lovely pink color and has nice acidity and minerality with subtle red cherry and raspberry flavors and lots of fizz.   This sparkler will bring color and fun to any celebration.

Graham Beck Bliss Demi Sec $16.99 This sparkler is perfect for those who like their bubbles on the sweeter side.  A blend of  53% Chardonnay and 47% Pinot Noir, these bubbles have flavors of pralines and caramel which will satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth and bring sweetness to any celebration

Graham Beck Brut Rose 2009 $18.99 A blend of Pinot Noir 82% and Chardonnay 18% from Estate grown fruit on Robertson and Stellenbosch vineyards.   These wines were pressed and fermented together.  This sparkler is salmon pink and elegant in both color and flavor.  It has nice berry flavors that are enhanced and balanced with a nice creamy finish.

Graham Beck Brut Blanc De Blanc 2009 $25 Made from 100% Chardonnay grown in limestone soil, this sparkler has tangy citrus flavors of lime and tangerine balanced with yeasty bricohe.  It has nice acidity and a creamy complexity.

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Cava is a sparkling wine produced in Spain. It is named after the cellars or cava in which the wine is produced.  Cava is made in the methode champenoise.  Three grape varieties native to Spain and typically used in cava are Xarello, Macabeo and Parella.  To make cava the grapes are harvested and a white wine is produced.    After the wine is made  the bottle is filled with the blended wine then a syrupy mixture of yeast and sugars is added called licor tirajo.  The yeast causes the secondary fermentation to occur in the bottle.  At this stage the bottled wine is then transferred to the cellar with a temporary stopper.  The yeasts converts the sugar to carbon dioxide and this second fermentation and bottle aging occur in the bottle.  During the second fermentation and aging the bottles are turned occasionally. This process is called remuage and is sometimes done by hand.  The turning of the bottles causes the residue from the yeast to collect in the neck of the wine bottle.  The neck of the bottle is then frozen, which forces the sediment out and the bottle is then re-corked

Codorníu has been making wine in Spain since 1551.  They practice sustainable agriculture in three distinct areas of Spain.  The grapes for their cava come primarily from Costers del Segre.   To make their cava, each plot is harvested and vinified separately using the traditional method first introduced in Spain by Codorníu in 1872.  Yeast and sugar are then added to the juice to  start a second fermentation in the bottle.  The bottles are then stored in Codorníu’s cellars to develop complexity and depth of flavor.

Anna de Cordoníu Brut $14.99 This sparkling wine is made from 70% Chardonnay, 15% Parellada & 15% Xarello Macabeo.  It is cellared 12 months and has yeasty brioche flavors with hints of citrus , tropical fruit and a nice creamy finish

Anna de Cordoniu Rosa $14.99 Made from 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay, this sparkling wine is elegant and refreshing with red fruit flavors of strawberry raspberry and hints of green apple balanced with nice acidity.

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In Italy there are many sparkling wines including Prosecco, Lambrusco, Franciacorta and Asit Spumanti.

Franciacorta is the first sparkling wine produced in Italy exclusively in the traditional method of secondary fermentation.  Franciacorta is located in Lombardy and its cool temperatures are perfect for producti0n of sparkling wines.  Franciacorta now has its own DOCG and its sparklers must be made from Chardonnay, Pinot Nero or Pinot Bianco

Trento is located in the Trention/Alto Adige in the far North of Italy and sparkling wine from this region can be made from Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Nero or Pinot Meunier.

Villa Emozione Brut 2009 $25  A blend of 85% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Nero and 5% Pinot Bianco this sparkler from Franciacorta is left on the lees for 30 months to generate  richness and complexity of flavor.  This wine has flavors of  peach, lemon zest and freshly baked bread and a nice elegant structure.

Lantieri Brut NV $29 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Bianco with 30 months on lees.  This Franciacorta sparkler undergoes a  gentle pressing of the must and fermentation is done in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with second fermentation in bottle.  It  has a great aroma and juicy flavors of peach, apple and almond with good acidity and a dry finish

Villa Crespia Numero Zero $39 This Chardonnay based Franciacorta sparkler is rich and creamy with a nice crispiness.  It has flavors of almond and stone fruit and a nice mouth feel

Ferarri Perle 2007 $38.99  is a Blanc Di Blanc made in Trento Italy in the traditional champagne method with secondary bottle fermentation.  It is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes grown according to sustainable principles.  The grapes are hand picked from estate vines at high altitudes which provide a nice complexity.  The wine is aged for 5 years in the bottle and has an amazing crispness, great acidity and flavors of almond and green apple rounded out with a nice yeastiness.


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Austrian sparkling wines is called Sekt.  Most often Sekt in Austria is made from Grüner Veltliner, Welshriesling, Riesling, or Sauvignon Blanc.  Like the other wines of Austria, Austrian Sekt is usually dry but sweeter examples do exist.  Malat was the first Austrian winery to make sparkling wine in the traditional method and the first winjery in Austria to use barrels for aging

Malat Brut Sekt 2010 $44.49 This sparkler is 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir. The grapes are grown in rock and loess soil and handpicked.  The wine is fermented in the bottle in the traditional manner and hand-riddled from the beginning and then disgorged without adding a dosage.   This sparkler has flavors of  tart apple with hints of orange zest.  It is dry with great structure and a nice creamy finish.

Best wishes for a Healthy and Happy New Year!  And remember, there’s no need for a special occasion to open a bottle of sparkling wine so buy a couple of bottles and start 2015 off right by not only drinking some of these on New Year’s Eve but by opening them on a regular day just because.



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3 Responses to “Unique Sparkling Wines”

  1. Riccardo Margheri says on :

    Trento is not in Veneto (“Vento” means just “wind” in Italian): this city is in Trentino.
    And cheers and Happy New Year toasting with a glass of nice Italian bubbly 🙂
    Kind regards
    Riccardo Margheri

  2. vinogger says on :

    Ah yes Thanks you Richard, I will make the change, as you astutely point out Trento is in Trentino/Alto Adige not Veneto. Thanks for taking the time to point out my error. Salut and Cheers to a great wine filled year ahead!

  3. Vino in Love says on :

    Are you sure that Franciacorta is Italy’s first classic-method sparkling wine? Isn’t it Trento DOC?