When the sugars in the grape juice are eaten by yeast, they create alcohol – but they also release carbon dioxide. And, if you trap the carbon dioxide inside a bottle with a crown seal, the liquid will become fizzy. Science! You can stop at this first fermentation, if you’re making a pétillant-naturel or method ancestral style, or continue onto a secondary fermentation for softer cremant styles and the infamous Champagne.
Let’s break it down further.
Hailing from the champagne region in France, this style of wine is famous for its creamy frothy bubble and complex, rich, texture. Made from Chardonnay, Meunier and Pinot Noir (plus the lesser known Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Petit Meslier and Arbane which make up just 3% of the total grapes grown in the region) these wines can be made from single varieties or blends, and are either vintage (from a single year) or non-vintage (NV) – a blend of vintage wine and also ‘reserve wine’ – kept from previous vintages to blend into the new wines for consistency and to achieve a ‘house style’.
Once the base wine (or cuvee) has been fermented into a dry wine, it’s bottled with tirage (unfermented wine) to begin a second ferment. Champagne must be aged “on lees” for a minimum of 15 months, but as with most French things, there are exceptions to these rules. After riddling (turning the wines to distribute the lees (dead yeast cells)), disgorgement rids the bottles of the lees, and the wines are finished with dosage (but not always!) and the iconic cork and cage. For bonus points, the cage is called a muselet.
Try the Bérêche et Fils Brut Reserve, a bright zippy champagne made from almost equal parts Chardonnay, Meunier and Pinot Noir. Pink grapefruit pith gives way to a rich nutty soft fizz that finishes with a rush of sea spray. Perfect for a special occasion or a Wednesday afternoon with someone you love and a couple of oysters.
Firstly. Champagne. Yes, we went there. This has to be from the region in Champagne. It’s labour-intense and time-consuming. A base wine is used for a secondary ferment (yeast, wine, and sugar combine) creating a bottle fizz. The wine will undergo a second fermentation in the bottle, allowing it to age on lees (dead yeast) to build texture and richness. The lees are then disgorged and eliminated from the bottle to leave the Champagne tasting and looking as pure as crystal.
Get swept away with the creamy, pillow-like soft, and bright bubbled NV Lelarge-Pugeot Tradition Extra Brut Champagne. Honeyed and crème caramel notes. Not sweet though with dry saline and refreshing toasty notes. Or the very very special grower’s 2013 Lelarge-Pugeot Les Meuniers de Clemence Champagne made from 100% Pinot Meunier that is aged for 4 years on lees. Sea spray and nutty almost oxidative notes. Crisp acidity, layered vinous texture, fruit purity, pumpernickel, toasty notes, good finish. Pair with oysters.
Ancestral Method aka pétillant-naturel, or Pét-Nat
This is the oldest method of bubbles. There isn’t a real secondary fermentation. Instead, the wine is bottled while it is still fermenting. Some may disgorge and rebottle, but many leave it as it is, giving the wine its cloudy look. However, this means all the yeast fall to the bottom. So expect delicious sediment and cloudiness. If it’s your first time trying a Pét-Nat, we cannot recommend enough the 2020 Entre Vinyes Ornic Pet-Nat, which has got just so much fruit. Think citrus, apples, and melons with a touch of residual in there. However if you’re looking for the perfect summer drink, right this way. This Pink Pét-Nat from The Other Right uses Pinot Gris for an unforgettable vibe and a splash of Noir as a finishing touch. This is freedom in a bottle. It’s dry, light with forest berries and raspberry sherbet. Banger.
Tank Method (Prosecco)
Named after the Italian town the wine was derived from, Prosecco wines are an easier and cheaper way to make sparkling, with the second fermentation happening in the tank. During this second fermentation, winemakers mix the base white wine with yeast and sugar in a large tank and then send the wine through a filtering system. The result is a style that tends to be more fruit and flower-driven and is usually on the sweeter side of the spectrum. We recommend either the wild and crunchy 2019 Dirty Black Denim Carménère Piquette that has been left on lees for 2 .5 years (wow) or the elegant 2020 Costadila 280 SLM Glera Prosecco, with hints of grass, pears, and apples on the nose.
Supposed to be the oldest method of making sparkling wine, the liquid is bottled while it is still fermenting. The subsequent carbon dioxide is trapped in the bottles and because there isn’t a secondary fermentation, these wines often have a cruncher fizz than a creamy bead. While some winemakers choose to disgorge and recap, it’s also common practice to leave the wine with the crunchy sediment in the bottle.
These fizzies are a bundle of fun, perfect for parties and picnics, celebrations and lunchtime drinking. They’re usually more pocket friendly than their champagne counterparts, too. A great introduction to the world of all things fizzy, pétillant-naturel in particular has taken the Aussie natural wine market by storm. We’ve even given it an endearing nickname – ‘pet-nat’. If you’re new to this style of wine, (and even if you’re not) try the Jumping Juice Pet Nat. Made by wizard winemaker Xavier Goodridge in collaboration with the equally talented Patrick Sullivan, it’s a softer style of pet-nat, with savoury slurpy flavours that are juxtaposed with bright watermelon and raspberry lemonade. Yum.
Technically, prosecco is a sparkling wine from the Valdobbiadene region in Veneto, Italy. Made with Glera grapes, which are also called prosecco grapes, the wines are fermented to dry and their second fermentation occurs in large format tanks (which is why prosecco styles are often the most affordable). The wines tend to be bright, fruit forward and floral. They’re fun, and are a great option if you’re making a mimosa, or a spritz and drinking on a boat.
For a budget banger, get around the Continental Platter Puncheon Darts Prosecco. It’s citrusy and fresh with a honey blossom prettiness that lingers in the most delightful way. Let the good times roll!
Piquette is kind of french colloquial slang that means ‘prick’ or ‘prickle’ – because piquette has a more prickly bubble. You’ll see what we mean when you taste one !
We love a bit of sustainability, and piquette is a fabulous way to make sure that everything in wine making is both used and utilised. Once you’ve crushed your grapes and captured the juice to make your wines, you’re left with what is called ‘pomace’ – the spent grape skins and flesh, seeds, etc. – it can be used as an organic fertiliser, or, it can be made into a low alcohol sparkling wine. The pomace is covered in water and steeped like a tea bag, dosed with a bit of fresh juice and fermented like a pet-nat. These wines are wildly fresh, low alcohol, and are traditionally served to the vineyard workers at lunchtime (the low ABV means you’re still productive after a few glasses!). While the style is historically French, nearly all European winemaking countries have a version of piquette, and Australia has joined the ranks, with some delicious offerings available. Try the M&J Becker – vibrant pink, juicy berry flavours in a cute swing top bottle, perfect for breakfast paired with a croissant smothered in butter and jam. Plus, you can reuse the bottle!