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The highest-quality California sparkling wines are produced according to the French champagne method, whereby the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottles in which the wines are sold. They include California champagnes from very dry to sweet, Red Champagne, Pink Champagne, Sparkling Burgundy, and Sparkling Muscat.
The same wine types are produced by the faster and less costly method whereby the secondary fermentation occurs in glass-lined vats, according to the so-called "Charmat" process, which is also of French origin. The law requires that champagne produced in this manner be designated as bulk process on the label.
In both methods indicated above the wines have been fermented naturally to obtain their sparkle. Wines where the sparkle has been induced by artificial means are known as Carbonated or as Effervescent wines and cannot be labeled as Sparkling.
All sparkling wines are expensive, a major element in the cost to the consumer being the very high federal excise tax, which is twenty times that on table wines, taxing in effect not so much the wine as the bubbles.
Use and Service-Sparkling wines, especially champagne, are the appropriate beverages for all festive occasions. Champagne is the wine par excellence at a formal dinner when a dry type is most suitable throughout the meal or a sweeter one with the dessert. Champagne is traditional for weddings, christenings, both of infants and of ships, anniversaries, New Year's Eve parties, dances and balls, and for all formal receptions.
A very dry champagne makes a first-class aperitif, while all types can be served at any time of day or night, with or without accompanying refreshments. It is the lightest and gayest of beverages and the easiest of all to assimilate.
Sparkling wines should be chilled but not served too cold, as often happens. Two or three hours in the refrigerator are sufficient, chilling the sweeter types longer than the drier. For a private supper party chilling champagne in a wine bucket with ice is an effective method; twenty minutes to half an hour is enough, twirling the bottle occasionally for even chilling as well as for effect.
OTHER CALIFORNIA SPARKLING WINES
These sparkling wines can be either fermented in the bottle or in bulk, but the method of production does not have to be indicated, as with California champagne, on the label. When they are bottlefermented, however, the fact is usually designated.
California Sparkling Burgundy The most popular California sparkling wine after champagne. It is produced from a variety of grapes, of which Pinot noir, Carignane, Mondeuse, and Petite Sirah are among the favored.
The wine is blended to quality and does not usually possess the character of any particular grape variety. It is medium red in color, medium-bodied, and often on the sweet side.
California Sparkling Muscat or Moscato Spumante Produced from one or more of the muscat grape varieties, of which the Muscat Canelli, or Frontignan, is especially desirable for the purpose. Sparkling Muscat, or Muscatel, as it is also called, should always possess the distinctive muscat aroma and flavor. The wine is medium- to full-bodied and either sweet or very sweet.
For the Italian trade the wine is usually marketed as Moscato Spumante or Gran Spumante, after the well-known Asti Spumante and other spumante, or sparkling, wines of Italy.
California Sparkling Malvasia A white varietal sparkling wine made from the Malvasia bianca grape with a delicate muscat character and sweet.
CALIFORNIA EFFERVESCENT WINES
Classified as such are all California wines with a sparkle but which cannot, by law, be labeled as "Sparkling" wines. The best known are the so-called "Carbonated" wines, where the sparkle is caused by artificial carbonation. While the best of these measure up favorably in quality and character with some of the naturally fermented sparkling wines, they will lose their sparkle more rapidly once the bottle has been opened.
California Carbonated Burgundy The usual name for the red wine of this type.
California Carbonated Moselle The usual name for the white wine of the group. Crackling wines, the name sometimes given to those wines, both red and white, which have a light, natural sparkle, as do the petillant wines of France and the frizzante of Italy, are not marketed in California at present on account of present high taxation, but may well have a great future before them.