After fall harvest, California’s wine-grape growers hand over the reins to the state’s world-class vintners. Red, white, sparkling and dessert wines are made using different techniques that vary on fermentation time, aging length, aging vessels (oak barrels or stainless steel tanks), temperature and more. Each decision the vintner makes influences the character and flavor of the resulting wine.
A heavy, colorless, odorless gas that is the byproduct of yeast as it turns sugar into alcohol.
California’s sparkling wines are increasingly earning a place on the international stage, thanks to innovative growers and vintners. Although many people call it Champagne, the term does not apply to California sparklers – by European law only sparkling white wine from the Champagne region of France can be called Champagne. Everything else is sparkling wine.
Sparkling wines are typically made of a blend of varieties, with chardonnay and pinot noir being the most popular. After the wine undergoes the primary fermentation, the winemaker adds a proprietary mixture that includes yeast and sugar (called the dosage), which causes a second fermentation. This second fermentation can take place either in the bottle or in large stainless steel tanks, with each technique producing different characteristics in the end product. During this second fermentation, sugars convert to alcohol and give off carbon dioxide, which builds up inside the bottle or tank and produces the bubbles that give sparkling wines their name.