It seems simple to say but not all bubbly wines are the same! When we are talking about the bubbles in wine, it is important to make the distinction between the two methods which allow bubbles to form. One is the Classic Method (refermentation in the bottle of wine) and the other is the Charmat Method (refermentation in an autoclave). Then there is the distinction between spumante and sparkling wines – no, they are not the same!
There is actually an official European Regulation (the EC 479/08) which defines sparkling wine and it states as follows: “A product obtained from the first or second fermentation of fresh grapes, grape must and wine. It is characterized at the uncorking, with a development of carbon dioxide which comes exclusively from the fermentation of the liquid at
68°F in a closed container, with pressurization of no less than 3.0 bar, due to carbon dioxide.”
What does this mean?
In short, sparkling wine bubbles are the result of a second fermentation, which can take place either in the bottle or in an autoclave. The fermentation happens thanks to yeasts which produce carbon dioxide. Oversimplifying the concept, it can be said that the pressure within a bottle is nothing more than the result of natural carbon dioxide. The result is the pressure which will give you that pop when you open a bottle of sparkling wine. Or that explosion when you shake it! (never shake your sparkling wine, what a waste!)
The more anhydride there is in a bottle, the stronger the pressure. This is precisely the difference between spumante and sparkling wine. The former, according to European regulation, must have a pressure of no less than 3.0 bar. Sparkling wines instead must have a pressure between 1.- and 2.5 bar. It goes without saying then, that sparkling wines have less sparkling characteristics than a spumante wine, with a less defined perlage and a more delicate taste than its counterpart.
There is no comparison in quality. There are excellent sparkling wines and excellent spumante wines. There are low-quality sparkling wines and low-quality spumante wines. It all depends on preference and pairing!