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Friday, June 17, 2016

Fizz Ed

There's a plethora of terminology out there related to wines that have fizz which can cause the consumer to scratch their heads.  What the heck does frizzante mean?  How does Prosecco differ from Champagne?  Or does it? Is Cava simply a Spanish version of Champagne?  Does spumante have anything to do with frizzante?  All of these questions are answered below, however, let's start with the basics first.

Sparkling wine is a style of wine which has carbon dioxide bubbles in it.  These bubbles make it fizzy. The most famous example of a sparkling wine is Champagne.  A sparkling wine can be white or rosé, however, there are sparkling wines that are red, such as Italy’s Lambrusco.  Sparkling wine can be dry, or have varying amounts of sugar--- all the way to a dessert wine.  The carbon dioxide fizz is the by-product of fermentation, however, with super inexpensive sparklers carbon dioxide gas can actually be injected into a still wine to make it fizzy.

Only sparkling wine made from grapes in the Champagne wine district of France may be called Champagne.  To protect knock-off sparkling wines, the Champagne Wine Growers Association has a powerful battery of attorneys on staff who carefully watch the use of the closely guarded Champagne name around the globe.   Sparkling wines from grapes grown just a few feet outside the Champagne zone are not allowed to use the name (these wines are called “Cremant.”)  The only exception to the rule is Korbel in California, which was “grandfathered in.”

But, this army of attorneys doesn’t just act regarding wine…any company who uses the name Champagne in any of its products (from hygiene products to car care products) can expect an unpleasant visit from the French lawyers to cease and desist immediately.  Some of those who have had to change their product’s name include well-known perfume-makers, chocolatiers, lingerie designers and soft-drink producers.   Even Apple was paid a visit when word leaked that the company was going to release a "Champagne colored" case for one of its I-phones.  The Champagne name is sacred. 

An Italian sparkling wine made only from a district just outside of Venice, Prosecco is named after the village of Prosecco in which the Prosecco grape may have originated.  Unlike Champagne and Cava, Prosecco does not ferment in the bottle (secondary fermentation), thus it does not have the complexity of Champagne and Cava.  Also, Prosecco is lower in alcohol (11-12%) than many other sparklers.

Frizzante is an Italian wine term that is closely related to Spumante.  Both describe the amount of effervescence (the amount and strength of the bubbles).  Frizzante indicates a gentle effervescence, or a small amount of fizz.  Prosecco is probably the most well-known Frizzante wine style, though Prosecco wines can also be made in the more robust Spumante style.

As discussed above, this term is used in Italy to describe the amount bubbles in a wine.  Think of Spumante as a fully sparkling wine with lots of bubble factor.  The term is often associated with the sweeter wines from the Asti region of Northern Italy, Asti Spumante.

This Spanish sparkling wine used to be called “Spanish Champagne,” however, it is no longer permitted under E.U. laws.   Like Champagne, there are strict laws on Cava such as the geographical area of where the grapes are grown (near Barcelona), what grapes may be used, and how it is vinified (secondary fermentation in the bottle is a requisite).

 May the fizz be with you!

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