How to taste sparkling wine: basic rules and tips
Sparkling wines have always accompanied the festive moments of our lives. Uncorking a sparkling wine releases joy and magic from the glass in a continuous chain of transparent pearls which radiate a potent aroma as they burst. This is why tasting a sparkling wine requires knowledge of the ritual to ensure full enjoyment of this wine.
First and foremost, forget about the barbaric custom of uncorking the bottle with a thunderous pop; instead it should be opened with a discreet hissing sound, so that the internal pressure preserving the perlage of the wine is not lost.
Sparkling wine should be served at a temperature of between 6 and 10 degrees: a lower temperature in this range is ideal for sparkling wines made using the Charmat method as it balances the sweet and aromatic taste of these wines, while a higher temperature is better for more structured sparkling wines produced using the traditional method.
If you do not have a professional, air-conditioned wine cellar, chill the sparkling wine in the refrigerator for 24 hours before serving. If you like, you can take it out of the refrigerator a few hours before serving and let it rest in an ice bucket.
The serving temperature also influences the wine's effervescence – that continuous and joyful fountain of bubbles that stream from the bottom of the glass to its surface. This effect, caused by the release of carbon dioxide formed during the vinification process, is slower at low temperatures, while it accelerates at higher temperatures.
To serve sparkling wine, a tall, narrow glass or crystal glass (flute) should be used. This shape reduces the surface area of the sparkling wine that is exposed to the air, thus reducing the dispersion of carbon dioxide and therefore the wine's perlage.
As soon as it is poured into the glass, the sparkling wine forms an abundant foam (mousse) that disappears after a few seconds. The way the mousse forms, develops and disappears provides an indication of the quality of the wine. The mousse should not be too thick or creamy, it should evaporate quickly, leaving a ring around the rim of the flute.
The tasting should also take into account the size and persistence of the bubbles. These characteristics depend heavily on the method used to produce the sparkling wine. In general, bubbles obtained using the Charmat method are larger than those obtained with the traditional method.
When tasting, the bubbles formed via natural fermentation produce a very pleasant tingling effect on the tongue.
Finally, pay attention to the clarity and colour of the sparkling wine: white wines produced using the Charmat method should be straw yellow with a hint of green, while wines produced using the traditional method should be golden yellow in colour.