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Hey, everybody it's Andrea Robinson, master sommelier and very proud partner of RBC with a 10-minute power lesson on my favorite wine style in the world, bubbly. We are going to talk about all that sparkles from steel to splurge. And in fact, before I give you the lowdown on sparkling wine, let's talk about that. What is the difference? What makes one wine a steal and another wine a splurge?
Well, I bet you're not going to be surprised at my answer, it's supply and demand, right. So abundant supply of a wine relative to the demand leads to lower prices, whereas tiny supply of a wine with a lot of demand can quickly get you into the stratosphere of sticker shock, right. So what is it that makes the difference between the supply and demand?
Well, it's two things. One is the growing region, both the size of the region and the renown or notoriety. A larger region gives you more supply of the wine, but higher renown gives you more demand for the wine. So that's one part of it. And then the second part is the process that's used to get the bubbles in the bottle. There are three of them and it goes like this, from least expensive to most expensive.
The first one is just simply injecting carbon dioxide into regular wine just like a soda pop. Then the second method is something called the Charmat Martinotti, or tank method, that's probably going to be easier to remember, and I'll tell you more about that in a second. Finally, the third method is what's called the traditional, or bottle fermented method, used for the world's highest quality sparkling wines including, of course, the benchmark, French champagne.
So with technique number one, just take regular wine, inject some carbon dioxide, and boom, you've got bubbly. Number two, with the tank method, and number three, you're going to get carbon dioxide in the bottle, but not by injecting it but rather by a second fermentation with a little yeast and a little sugar after the first fermentation, where the sugar in the ripe grapes was converted to alcohol and carbon dioxide to make regular wine without bubbles that we call still wine.
In that process, the carbon dioxide just dissipates into the atmosphere, but with the tank and the traditional method, the carbon dioxide stays in solution. And here's how it's done. When it comes to a tank, the yeast and the sugar are added to the tank of regular wine and it's kept under pressure. So as the carbon dioxide builds up from fermentation, it mixes into the wine. Then the wine gets settled for maybe a couple of months, filtered of the yeast cells and bottled all under pressure, and done deal.
Now, with the bottle fermented method, that second fermentation with a little extra yeast and a little more sugar, takes place in the actual individual bottle in which the wine will be sold, and then gets aged for a long period of time on the yeast cells, something called tirage. And as the yeast cells are mixed in with the wine, the carbon dioxide gets created, but also a lot of complexity.
And then after that long aging, which raises the price of the wine, because like every bit of inventory that you hold onto, there's a cost to carry. That adds complexity, but it also adds cost. Then at the very end, a painstaking bottle by bottle process called disgorging takes place. So no filtration, they get the cells out by disgorging.
And as an aside, that process was actually invented by the Veuve, or widow Clicquot, with her cellar master when she took over the champagne house, when her husband had an untimely death. So given the era, the 1700s into the 1800s, she was probably one of the first female corporate business leaders. So go Veuve, right? Very cool.
All right, now let's get back onto our wines. We've talked about the tank method and the traditional method. Traditional method wines, of course, the benchmark is French champagne. But that's also used for classic California sparkling wines like this Piper Sonoma, it's also used for some great Italian spumante. Now, spumante is just their word for sparkling. And you can look for regions like Franciacorta and Trento, and they're both worth seeking out.
And then believe it or not, tiny Tasmania in Australia and even tinier England in the UK, make fantastic, high-quality traditional methods sparkling wines. And all of those are modeled on champagne and usually based on the same grapes in champagne. Now, get ready for this, those grapes are two reds and a white. The Reds are Pinot noir, Meunier, and then the white grape, Chardonnay. No color typically in the wines because they press the juice off the skins before any color leaches in to give it a red or pink color, of course, with the exception of pink or rosé champagne.
So that's traditional method based on the classic champagne grapes. But there are also some wonderful traditional method wines based on local regional grapes, that's where Spanish cava comes in. So the Spanish cava wines are traditional bottle fermented wines based on typically the local grapes Xarel-lo, Parellada, and Macabeo. And they can represent some really great value. So you should check them out.
You'll also want to look for French sparkling wines made from the traditional method with the word crémant, which means creamy, like the bubbles, plus the region. So Crémant de Loire often, based on the local Chenin blanc grape, for example, or Crémant d'alsace, often based on the local Riesling grape from the famous Alsace region of France.
So that's the major styles of traditional methods sparkling wine. Going to the tank method, well, you all know and love it, so do I. The wine of the moment is of course Prosecco. It is really the most prominent and for good reason, because it's delicious, tank method sparkling wines. And it is based on the local Glera grape and has wonderful options between basic Prosecco DOC, or Prosecco DOC, which just is a reference point to the region, but you can also trade up to Prosecco called Cartizze, or Prosecco Valdobbiadene, a long words, but you can look for them on wine list and in shops.
And they really do give you some extra complexity. But what you got to love about Prosecco is the value for the money, it's fruity, it's frothy, it's busy and it's festive, and we can afford it, right? So that's a great thing. Now, let me show you how to open the bottle because there's 90 PSI, or pounds per square inch, or four to six atmospheres of pressure in a bottle. It's way more than a car tire.
So you want to be careful because that cork can become a bit dangerous. So I'm going to wipe off the bottle if you've got condensation from the fridge or you've got moisture from the ice bucket, you want to make sure you get a good firm grip so you want to make sure that you dry it off.
Next thing, of course, you're going to remove the foil. This is or capsule, this is just part of the traditional dress of sparkling wine, right? And sometimes they have a tab that you can pull to get it off, sometimes they're a little bit uncooperative like this one. But not to worry because you're not going for artistry, you're going for safety here, right? OK.
Now, there is a muzzle or wire cage that's holding the cork in with all that pressure it needs to. So you want to loosen it but not lose your grip on it. So by tradition-- you've got a little tab here, it's six twists one, two, three, four, five, six gets it open. I never take it off because if I do that, I'll have to lose my grip on the cork and I don't want to do that.
What we're trying to do is control the pressure and we're also trying to turn away from people and fragile property, like maybe a light fixture. So next thing we're going to do is we're going to hold the bottle on a 45 degree angle that increases the surface area inside the bottle to ease the carbon dioxide as it starts to escape.
All right, I'm holding this tightly in with my grip. I'm going to hold the cork and I'm going to turn the bottle one direction and the cork the other, or you can hold the cork stationary and just turn the bottle. Now, I'm feeling the pressure, it's pushing the cork out. I'm actually holding it in and controlling it with my grip because I want it to come out with a little hiss or a sigh, rather than a big pop for a couple of reasons and I'll tell you about that in a second.
So I'm actually holding it in and just gently rocking it back and forth to ease it out, with a little bit of a hiss like that. Now, the reason you want to do that is because for safety, but also it keeps the CO2 in the wine and that means that if you seal it with a clamshell champagne stopper, you're going to have bubbly wine for many, many days because you didn't lose all the carbon dioxide in opening the bottle.
Now, really quickly, this is the most important part. Let's talk for a second about tasting sparkling wine, because there's a big controversy among some people that says, oh, don't swirl sparkling wine. Well, I swirl it. I think it's great. Already the bubbles breaking at the surface help bring the aromas into the headspace of the glass where you can appreciate them, but a little swirl is another great way to enhance that. And if you don't have fragrance you don't have flavor.
Well that's your whirlwind tour of toast worthy sparkling wines and that brings me to my final lesson, the most important ones. They're not just for toasts and special occasions, in fact, the bargain bubblies that are out there that are so high quality, great value for the money are wonderful for everyday drinking and pairing with meals. They might also be the perfect thing for a yucky day, right?
Because if you just got walloped at work, well, you've got a pocket friendly post work pep talk that's just a pop of the cork away, right? So I want to thank you for having me in your home with RBC and I look forward to seeing you soon on the wine trail, cheers.