SPARKLING WINES: They Are Not All Equal

Sparkling Wines: They are not all equal

Sparkling wines range in price from about $7 to over $200, so what is the difference?


Franiacorta aging in the Berlucchi wine cellar.


Grape Varietals

Each wine producing region specializes in grapes that grow well under its environmental conditions. As such, sparkling wines are made from an assortment of grape varietals grown around the world. The varietal(s) used creates a basic flavor profile for the wine.


Taste profile of Prosecco.


Environmental Conditions

The soil, climate, topography, and sun exposure all have an impact on the unique aroma and flavor characteristics of the grapes.



Fermentation Process

There are two main methods of making sparkling wines: Traditional vs Tank method. The traditional method (Méthode Champenoise, Classico, Traditionnelle) processes the second fermentation in the bottle, while the tank (or Charmat) method processes the second fermentation in a pressurized tank.




Aging requirements for bottle fermentation vary depending on the type of sparkling wine and the region. This impacts the flavor profile of the wine. The longer the lees (sediment of wine which includes dead yeast from fermentation) age, the more complex and nuttier/toastier notes are present in the wine.


Champagne Taittinger vineyard.



Sparkling wines are made with a range of sweetness from Brut Nature (0-3 grams per liter of residual sugar) to Doux (50+ grams per liter of residual sugar). Brut (0-12 grams per liter of residual sugar) being the most popular.


Atmospheres of Pressure

The amount of pressure held in the bottle will determine the bubble size and finesse. Higher pressure results in tinier and more delicate the bubbles, like in Champagne (6 bars). Prosecco, for reference, is about 3.5 bars.



The power in the brand can play a large role in pricing. Think Dom Perignon!


So many styles

There are so many styles of sparkling wines from around the world to consider from those most popular like Champagne, Cava, and Prosecco, to lesser-known styles like Crémant, Franciacorta, Brachetto, Méthode Cap Classique, and Sekt. Each is unique to the region, grapes, and winemaking process.

While they are not all equal, there is a perfect occasion to enjoy each of them.

Happy exploring!


Photos courtesy Stephanie Roberts
Feature and banner photos courtesy



Stephanie Roberts, WSET® Certified Sommelier, empowers people to drink better wine. Through unique and tailored wine experiences, she demystifies wine and all its complexities and teaches people how to recognize a wine’s journey from a grape in the vineyard to the wine in your glass.  

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