Sparkling wine does pop like Champagne when it’s opened. This distinctive “pop” comes from the release of built-up pressure which is caused by the carbonation of this type of wine. The carbonation comes from the production process, and means the creation of bubbles which give the wine its fizz. It’s also why sparkling wines are informally called bottles of “bubbly”.
If you have a bottle of sparkling wine that you want to open with a flourish for a celebration, this guide will show you how to open and serve it properly. We also cover the difference between sparkling wine and Champagne and the interesting science behind why these wines actually pop.
What’s the Difference Between Sparkling Wine and Champagne?
First, a note on what separates Champagne from sparkling wine to clear up any confusion. Sparkling wine as a term just refers to all wines that fit the categorisation: any wine with noticeable levels of carbon dioxide that produces effervescence is sparkling wine.
Champagne is just a type of sparkling wine. What sets it apart is the rules surrounding the Champagne name. A sparkling wine can only be called Champagne if it’s been produced in the Champagne region of France, which is in the northeast of the country near Paris. It needs to be made of specific grape varieties:
- Chardonnay (the most common variety)
- Pinot Noir
- Pinot Meunier
It also needs to be made in the traditional method, which in France is called Méthode Traditionnelle. It used to be known as Méthode Champenoise before an EU law change in 1994. This method, explained in more detail below, is used outside of France to make quality sparkling wines that are nearly identical to Champagne. In fact, it was the English who invented sparkling wine.
A sparkling wine made in the traditional method is an equal alternative to Champagne that won’t break the bank, with the same characteristic pop when uncorked that starts any celebration off with a bang.
Why Does Sparkling Wine Pop?
The simple answer is that carbon dioxide dissolves in the sparkling wine, builds up pressure, and then rushes out when the seal keeping it in the bottle has been broken. This rush creates the popping sound.
In a sparkling wine bottle, carbon dioxide dissolved in the liquid is in balance with the gas in the space between the liquid and the cork at the top of the bottle. This balance is thrown off when the cork is popped. The carbon dioxide that was dissolved in the liquid will exit in the form of bubbles.
But why is that carbon dioxide there in the first place? The answer lies in the production method.
How Sparkling Wines are Made
All wines are made from fermented grape juice with added sugar and yeast. Sparkling wines made in the traditional method, like Champagne, undergo an important secondary fermentation process in-bottle.
Yeast and sugar are added, as are nutrients for the yeast. The grape juice slowly ferments, during which time the yeast cells die and start to form deposits. These deposits, called “lees”, help the wine to develop its flavours and aromas. Traditional method sparkling wines will be aged on these lees for at least 1.5 years, during which time carbon dioxide builds up.
After ageing, the bottles undergo “remuage” which is where the bottles are oriented gradually over time until upside down. This means the lees all fall down the neck so they can be easily removed. The bottles will be cooled to freeze the lees together, then uprighted so that the built-up pressure pushes the lees out. The bottles are then corked and are ready to go.
sugar have been added. Then, the wine is aged on its lees to develop its aromas, flavours, and textures.
How to Open a Bottle of Sparkling Wine Properly
Learning how to open a bottle of sparkling wine the correct way will make sure your celebrations start right. Though that distinctive pop of opening Champagne brings to mind special occasions, you should actually aim for more of a soft fizz to avoid any dangerous projectiles.
Follow these easy steps for opening any corked sparkling wine safely:
- Remove the wire cage: gently undo the protective foil or wire muzzle over the cork, keeping your thumb firmly on top just in case it’s forced out prematurely.
- Get in position: angle the bottle away from you and from anyone else, with one hand at the bottle’s base and the other with fingers wrapped around the cork.
- Twist the bottle: the trick to opening sparkling wine is to twist the bottle, not the cork. Keep twisting the bottle slowly as you feel the cork start to loosen.
- Ease out the cork: When you feel the cork loosen and hear a soft fizz (not a pop) just ease the cork out until it’s free.
Make sure you’re up to speed with how to store sparkling wine and how to recork sparkling wine so you can keep your bottle fresh and fizzing.
Make Your Celebration Pop With Award-Winning Sparkling Wine
When you’re looking for a Champagne equivalent for a special occasion – or just because you fancy it! – Bolney Wine Estate will have the perfect solution. We have been creating award-winning English sparkling wine in the traditional method for over 50 years. Our dazzling white, red, and rosé wines are all made from the grapes of our beautiful Sussex vineyards, ensuring home-grown quality.
Try a single bottle, a mixed case, or even a party hamper of sparkling wines to suit your needs. Simply explore our range or discover our subscribe and save option to see what we have on offer.