American sparkling wines are on the rise. Overall, sparkling wine consumption grew more than 56 percent over the past decade in the United States. Yet, while most casual sparkling wine drinkers know imported products like Champagne and Prosecco, many are still unfamiliar with the myriad styles of American sparkling wines. Across the country, producers are making wines in the traditional méthode Champenoise style, while also branching out and exploring new styles. There has been a rise in pétillant-natural and méthode ancestrale examples, among others. Today, American sparkling wine is on the cusp of something really unique — and given its price-to-value proposition, the wine could become an everyday option as well as a celebratory staple.
The key to American sparkling wine is to understand that it is not Champagne. Producers are not trying to duplicate Champagne — they honor specific American terroir and attempt to coax the best wines from the grapes that are available. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier are the primary grapes used to make Champagne, and those grapes thrive in the cool climate of northern France. But Pinot Meunier doesn’t perform as well in a warmer climate like California, and thus most growers don’t attempt to use it. So growers in the states are experimenting with the grapes best suited to their individual climates, bottling sparkling versions of Albariño, Grenache Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier, among others.
There’s also a freedom in making sparkling wines in the states. Producers don’t have to adhere to the strict rules in Champagne regarding the usage of certain grapes, regimented harvest schedules, and strict aging regimens. This gives American producers an advantage, in that they can craft unique and interesting sparkling wines that express their visions and personal tastes. An example of this is the use of carbonic maceration in a sparkling rosé from Corollary Wines in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The technique — leaving whole clusters undisturbed in a tank for days under carbon dioxide so the berries start to ferment inside their skins, yielding flavors of strawberries and candied orange — would not be allowed in Champagne.
“We love drinking carbonic wines — both still and sparkling — because they’re juicy, approachable, and incredibly food-friendly,” says Jeanne Feldkamp, winemaker at Corollary Wines. “When we began working with a mixed-clone block at Momtazi Vineyard, which practices biodynamic farming and produces Pinot Noir of great character, everything clicked into place. We knew the carbonic process would highlight the wild berry intensity we get from this site, and the clonal variation would give us depth and complexity. It’s a unique sparkling expression of a unique site.”
This kind of winemaking represents a new type of wine thinking where curiosity and exploration are coupled with tradition and technique. It’s a fresh way of approaching sparkling wine, and producers in the United States are making some of the best examples. Perhaps these new American sparkling wines will be the catalyst to boost the category’s popularity, finally transforming it from a celebratory wine to an everyday drink.
6 American Sparkling Wines to Try
NV Bodkin Wines Blanc de Sauvignon Blanc, Cuvée Agincourt
This is the first Sauvignon Blanc sparkling wine made in the U.S., and it is a crowd pleaser. With notes of lemon, lime, and tropical fruits. Average price: $25
NV Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier California Sparkling Wine
Pine Ridge took its popular Chenin Blanc and Viognier blend and decided to make a traditional method sparkler that is dry and floral — and a bargain for the price point. The splash of Viognier balances out the fruitiness of the Chenin Blanc. Average price: $16
2016 Long Meadow Ranch Blanc de Noirs, Anderson Valley
The flavor and texture of this wine is similar to a traditional Blanc de Noirs Champagne with a layered nose and intense flavors of red fruit and peach. The bubbles are fine, and the wine has vibrant acidity and low sugar. There is a long finish and roundness that adds finesse. Average price: $85
2016 Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards Sparkling Grenache Blanc
Lodi and white wine doesn’t come to mind in a region known for bold reds, but this mineral-focused Grenache Blanc is a palate pleaser. Average price: $55
2017 Corollary Momtazi Carbonic Rosé
2019 Carboniste Gomez Vineyard Sparkling Albariño
Albariño and sparkling are two words not associated with each other, but this is wildly different, approachable, and very easy to drink. Average price: $28