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Small bottles, big on enjoyment

Sparkling wines are refreshing and eminently quaffable. The stylistics depend on the production process, but champagne, prosecco et al are equally enjoyable whether they come in a small or big bottle.
If the average Swiss man or woman has a favourite sparkling wine, it is surely prosecco from Veneto. For celebrations, however, they will crack open the champagne. Yet this does a disservice to the luxury drink with the famous French appellation: sparkling wine and other fabulous fizzes from countries such as Spain, Switzerland or Germany are in fact the perfect partner to meals, with plenty of options to suit every course. Refreshing sparkling wines make a great aperitif, whether at home on the balcony, in the garden or away on a secluded lakeside or beach.
Sparkling wines are considerably easier to drink than they are to produce. Why? Because every drink goes through two fermentations, and there are various production processes. The simplest method involves adding carbon dioxide to white or rosé wine. These low-cost products have distinctive large bubbles. Somewhat more sophisticated is the tank method. The second fermentation that is typical of sparkling wines, and which creates the fizz, takes place in a large pressure tank. A dosage is then added, which determines how sweet the wine will be. The resulting wines are fruity and not very complex, the most famous examples being prosecco and Lambrusco. Increasingly popular are Pét-nats, as they are known: lightly sparkling natural wines. These are produced according to the “Méthode Ancestrale”. The first fermentation in a steel tank or barrique is halted, and the wine is bottled with residual sugar. In the bottle, it continues to ferment for at least another two months, at which point it is ready to drink.
The most challenging and complex process is the traditional method. The producers add a mixture of wine, sugar and yeast to the fermented base wine. The second fermentation then takes place in the bottle, with the wine staying on the lees for months or, in some cases, years. Following remuage, the yeast is removed, and the wine is then topped up with the dosage. Champagnes are universally held up as the yardstick. Spanish Cava, French Crémants, German Sekt or high-quality Swiss sparkling wines are produced by the same method. The products from different growing regions and the varying processes result in a wonderful diversity. Which can mean only one thing: these fabulous fizzes deserve to be an everyday treat, not just kept for special occasions.
Peter Keller