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Sparkling Wine Anyone?

A carbonized Muscat

A carbonized Muscat

This year seems to be the year for sparkling wines. The International Wine Tourism Conference was in Champagne, France and next year’s conference will move to Barcelona, Spain – cava country. In January, Kathy and I judged Virginia sparkling wines. Later this month, we are going to judge cavas. We are currently writing a book about cava and thoughts turn to sparkling wine methods. I want to make a sparkling wine this year.

I know that making a sparkling wine takes patience, that is if you make it following the protocol of the traditional method. In this method, the winemaker vinifies a wine, creates a blend, bottles the blended wine and adds sugar and yeast to the bottled wine prior to capping the bottle. The secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle. Afterwards the wine is aged for several months to several years. The charmat method is quicker. The wine is racked to a pressurized tank and the secondary fermentation takes place in the pressurized tank. There are also other methods that are rather time consuming.

In a moment of weakness, where I did not exhibit patience, I decided to make a sparkling wine by carbonizing a still wine. I used one of those small units that you can pour a bottle of wine into it, screw on the top, screw on a small carbon dioxide cylinder and listen to the gas hiss into the container. After moving the stainless steel container to mix the contents, I placed it into the refrigerator for several hours. After pressing the button on the covering to release excess gas, I poured the contents into flutes.

Mousse on the surface of the sparkling Muscat

Mousse on the surface of the sparkling Muscat

It worked! I had a sparkling wine. This was only one bottle so there was not a lot to go around, but it was sparkling. There were multiple beads of bubbles forming a mousse on the surface. The muscat wine was slightly sweet and paired well with cheese and a cake made from blueberry wine. There were not as many bubbles as there were in the cavas I’ve observed. The stream of bubbles would not last as long as they do in some of the cavas we’ve tasted. If you’re thirsty, that doesn’t matter though.

I still would like to make a sparkling wine using the traditional method, but I realize it will take years before it is ready. The carbonizing method does allow you to experiment in case you’ve ever wondered what a still wine would taste like if it was a sparkling.


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