17 Jul Are Sparkling And Semi-Sparkling Wines The Same?
Wines come in different forms and flavours. You have red, white, rose, and sparkling varieties, all with unique characteristics. All categories of wines have subcategories based on factors like grape varietals, the winemaking process, texture and flavour profile, etc. It is fascinating to explore the different aspects and options available, but it can be a little confusing. Many people wonder if there’s a difference between sparkling and semi-sparkling wines. Here’s a guide that can help you understand:
Difference In Texture
Both sparkling and semi-sparkling wines have a bubbly and fizzy texture. That happens due to the presence of carbon dioxide in the drink. However, sparkling wines like champagne have more intense textures than semi-sparkling wines like prosecco. Sparkling wines will sizzle actively and pop in your mouth while semi-sparkling wines leave a gentle and soft buzz across the palate.
The latter are usually sweeter than sparkling ones, though you can find some dry varieties as well. These are more suitable for the untrained palate and milder dishes, which makes them an excellent choice for all kinds of events or celebrations.
The Importance of Pressure
EU guidelines state that any wine with a pressure of more than 3 atmospheres is a sparkling wine. Champagne, the most popular and well-known sparkling wine, has a pressure of 5-6 atmospheres in the bottle. That’s one of the reasons why it has such an intense sizzle and pop. That pressure is more than what you would find in regular automobile tires.
Semi-sparkling wines have a pressure of around 1 to 2.5 atmospheres and more natural carbonization. Anything below the 3 atmospheres level is considered semi-sparkling and is more commonly known as frizzante. You can understand the difference between sparkling and semi-sparkling when you look at how they are made.
Sparkling Wine Manufacturing Process
There are many ways to manufacture a great bottle of sparkling wine. Different makes use of different processes based on the type of grape they use and the process behind it. Champagne is made using the traditional method, and here’s a look at how it is done:
- Base Wine – The first step is to make the base wine. Grapes are harvested a little early to ensure they are relatively acidic before they are crushed into juice and allowed to ferment. This first fermentation creates the base wine, which is very dry and is blended with other wines from different manufacturers or years to help develop a complex flavour.
- Triage – The next step is to blend sugars into the base wine as that increases carbonization and reduces the acidity of the mixture. The base blend is mixed in with a combination of sugar and yeast. This process is called liqueur de tirage, and it introduces a lot of sweetness to the drink.
- Secondary Fermentation – Once the liqueur de tirage is complete, the mixture is immediately placed inside wine bottles and allowed to ferment once again. During this process, the yeast consumes sugar and creates a byproduct of alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Once the secondary fermentation is complete, the wine ages with the dead yeast still inside the bottle. Champagne manufacturers let the mixture age for anywhere between 15 and 36 months while Cava wine manufacturers allow the beverage for around nine months. The yeast is eventually removed through the riddling and disgorging process, sweetened with some sugar, and then corked and labelled.
Semi-Sparkling Wine Manufacturing Process
The semi-sparkling wine manufacturing process is similar to sparkling winemaking procedures, but there’s little to no added sugar introduced. Sugar is the compound yeast feeds on, and it helps create the characteristic bubbles. If you have less sugar, you have less fizz.
There are several methods to create semi-sparkling wines like the tank or ancestral. The French Pétillant Naturel semi-sparkling wine is a great example of a gentle bubbly. It is made using the ancestral method. Here’s a look at how it is done:
- Freezing Base Wine – The base wine is prepared like it is done in the traditional method, but it is frozen for a few months between the fermentation process, which stalls it.
- Bottling – The semi-fermented wine is then bottled and sealed before it is allowed to return to a normal temperature. This restarts the fermentation process, and the yeast consumes the remaining sugars in the base wine. All of the carbon dioxide produced through this process remains trapped in the bottle and penetrates the wine, creating a gentle bubbling texture.
- No Sugar – No additional sugar is introduced during or after the secondary fermentation process. The yeast only has the natural sugars from the grape to consume, which gives semi-sparkling wines a more fruity and lighter favour.
Different manufacturers have different processes, which can influence the quality and texture of the wine. You can tell the difference between sparkling and semi-sparkling varieties quickly by the way they pop when uncorked. Semi-sparkling wines have less pressure inside the bottle.
Popular Sparkling Wines
Sparkling wines are manufactured in France, Italy, Germany, Australia, the US, and a few other countries. Every region has its standards and manufacturing procedures. Some of the most popular sparkling wines include:
All of these wines have distinctive characteristics, flavours, levels of acidity, and bubbly. Champagne may be the most popular, but other options like Cava have gained popularity in recent years.
Popular Semi-Sparkling Wines
Semi-sparkling wines have been around for hundreds of years, but they are becoming popular once again. Products made with the tank method are considered inferior compared to those made from the ancestral method. However, you will still find interesting and distinctive textures regardless of the manufacturing process. Some of the most well-known semi-sparkling wines include:
- Sektkellerei Gibbert
- Pétillant Naturel
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