Sparkling wine is defined by the bubbles! Although Champagne is by far the best-known type of sparkling wine, there are many sparkling varieties including Cava, Prosecco and Asti. Labelling laws require that Champagne be made in the Champagne region of France and using the methode champenoise. Other sparkling varieties are made all over the world. Most sparkling wines are white, but there are also some sparkling rose wines and red wines. Sparkling wines range from dry (brut) to sweet (doux).
At one time, bubbles in wine were attributed to magical forces and considered a negative characteristic in the wine. The pressure of carbonation sometimes caused bottles to explode, which could be dangerous. This occurred when temperature stalled the fermentation process, leaving yeast and sugar dormant in the bottle. When the bottles warmed again, the secondary fermentation created bubbles. This process can also be artificially encouraged by adding sugar to the wine when it is bottled. Modern sparkling wine producers use extra-strong bottles to prevent the dangerous explosions of years past.
Champagne is of course the most famous of the sparkling wines, but it is less than 10% of sparkling wine productions worldwide. Other varieties include Cremant (mostly France), Cava (Spain), Espumante (Portugal), Prosecco and Asti (Italy), and the Sekt wines of Germany. The US and Australia also produce several types of sparkling wines. Sparklers are made from a variety of white or peeled red grapes, with the most common being Chardonnay. It is common for sparkling wines to include a mixture of grapes rather than being varietals.
Unlike most white wines, sparkling wines are often aged for several years with good results. Champagne is generally aged for several months to a a few years before being released, and it can continue to age in your home wine cellar until you are ready to drink it.