California Sparkling Wine and the Champagne Style
By now you probably know that Champagne is really just sparkling white wine, but specifically refers to bottles that hail from the Champagne region of France. Most newer growers don’t put champagne on their bottles anymore, but you still know roughly what you’re getting when you buy a bottle of California sparkling wine. But do you really know why your bottle of California brut cost so much less than the champagne on the next shelf and what that means for the drinking experience you’ll enjoy?
Champagne remains the holy grail of sparkling wine, especially for makers in the United States and California.
While everyone agrees that no sparkling what wine makers have been able to get very close to the taste of the French standard, the question of whether that should really be their goal is a good one.
The champagne region of France is colder and its soil is chalky. California is warm and rich, and it’s soil reflects these climatic differences. So as long as the best French bottles are the standard, it’s impossible for California sparklers to achieve the same quality, let alone the same characteristics. Yes you can still get a dry, crisp sparkler that bounces in the mouth and leaves you feeling giddy. But it won’t be the same, experts agree, as what you’d get from the top tier of Champagne.
California does offer something unique and special, and that’s what you should be considering when you pick up a bottle of brut from the golden state. Warmer climates and richer soils produce riper grapes with a fruitier taste.
This is clear in all the state’s wines. It means you will probably not get the same nutty taste that certain chemical processes that require the higher French levels of acidity produce. In exchange, you’ll enjoy a warmer drinking experience, often with a less-pronounced buttery flavor and more tart, apple-hints. This is the nature of a California sparkler.