- The easiest way is to just pump CO2 into the wine in a pressurized environment, like Coke. This produces the cheapest and the lowest quality sparkling wine, but this is a highly popular way of consuming sparkling.
- Tank method provides more consistent bubbles than the pumping method. Wine or partially fermented wine is fermented in a pressurized tank and bottled under pressure. Asti, my favourite sparkling, is made this way.
- Transfer method provides even finer bubbles and consistent wine from bottles to bottles. For this method, sparkling wines are fully fermented in bottles, and then the entire content is emptied into a huge pressurized tanks with other bottles before being filtered and rebottled.
- The traditional method produces the finest and the most expensive sparkling wine. For this method, partially fermented wine are bottled individually and store away from several years. After aging, a specialized system removes the yeast deposit, before they are sold.
So what is Champaign? Or what do you mean Champaign doesn't equate to sparkling wine?
Champaign only refers to sparkling wine made within the region of Champaign in France. The production method is highly regulated by the government to ensure quality control. Successful marketing ensures consumers think only of Champaign as sparkling wine and ensures Champaign is grossly overpriced. Yes, champaign does provide the best quality, most complex, and best balanced sparkling wine in the world, but most consumers will not be able to tell the differences. The idea of shaking and spraying a vintage Crystal makes my skin scrawl.
- Crémant and Saumur produce French sparkling wine using the similar traditional method as Champaign. While the wines aren't as complex, but it is significantly cheaper.
- Cava is the Spanish version of Champaign. It doesn't have the age-ablility of Champaign, but with the current economic climate, you can get it for dirt cheap.
- A handful of Champaign makers started making exceptional sparkling wine in California. The competition amongst these produces and the locals resulted in dramatically better quality at deeply discounted price. However, brand name is important here, because there is no regulation on quality. Pipper, Mumm, Roederer Estate, Maison Deutz, Domaine Carnero, Scharffenberger, Gloria Ferrer, Codorniu, Schramsberg, Iron Horse, and Jordan.
- Asti from Italy is my personal favourite. It is slightly expensive compared to the rest of the discounted sparkling.
I am not as familiar with Australian and New Zealand sparkling wine, but I am told that there are a handful of gems there too.