Established bubbly labels compete with the new fizz kids
Most producers of sparkling wine rely on the holiday season to reach their annual sales targets. For consumers, this is a good time to find choice bargains.
There are about 45 million bubbles in a bottle of sparkling wine. A sparkling wine is not always champagne - that name refers to sparkling wines produced in the Champagne region of France.
While it's possible to make a cheap sparkling wine in the same way as a soft drink by injecting carbon dioxide into it, a decent sparkling wine is made by being fermented twice. During the second fermentation, carbon dioxide created during the process is trapped in the wine.
The traditional method, which the Champagne region gives its name to, involves the wine undergoing its second fermentation in the bottle. Another common method is the Charmat or tank method - secondary fermentation takes place in a stainless steel tank, usually resulting in fresher and less complex wines.
Sparkling wines are usually white or rose but, in rare cases, may be red. Traditional grapes used in Champagne are chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. Sugar levels range from very dry, with zero sugar added, to very sweet (more than 5 per cent sugar). Most sparkling wine is labelled Brut, which can contain up to 12 grams of sugar per litre.
Sparkling wines may be labelled NV (non-vintage). This means it is made from a blend of base wines, not all of which may be from one vintage. This allows large producers to create a unique house style and have the flexibility to blend wines from vintages in less than ideal years. Vintage champagne is made from wines from the year on the label but is not produced every year.
The most famous and highly prized sparkling wines are from the Champagne region. Many other French regions make sparkling wine, labelled as cremant or mousseux, including Alsace, Vouvray and Burgundy.
Cava is made from a blend of three grape varieties: xarello, macabeo and parellada. Nowadays pinot noir and chardonnay are also used. These sparkling wines are made using the traditional method. They make a suitable party drink and are good value.
The best known sparkling wine is Prosecco from the Veneto region. This affordable wine is used in the famed Bellini cocktail, a blend of Prosecco and white peach puree. Franciacorta also makes sparkling wines, using the traditional method.
Sekt is the term for sparkling wine from Austria and Germany. The lower-quality wines are made from imported grapes. High-quality ones are made in the traditional way.
Places such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and California produce sparkling wines using either the Charmat or the traditional method. In general, these regions have a warmer climate, which produces a slightly riper, more fruit-forward style.
Other regions making high-quality sparkling wines include Britain, which has similar conditions to Champagne, with chalk soils and warmer ripening conditions. Brazil is capable of producing sparkling wines that are highly regarded by wine critics such as Jancis Robinson.
Sparkling wines to try
Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru NV Champagne, HK$500
Rich and complex, with nutty brioche notes, this wine is like a vintage champagne.
Bottega Prosecco NV, HK$168-HK$188
Ponti Food & Wine Cellar
Floral, honeyed aroma. This wine is a definite crowd pleaser.
Raventos i Blanc Rose de Nit 2007 cava, HK$218
Strawberry, floral aroma. Good structure and long finish.
Ninth Island Tasmania Sparkling NV, HK$169
Tasmania's cool climate is perfect for making sparkling wines with delicate fruit and crisp acidity.
Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs 2007, HK$313
One of the favourite sparkling wines from California served at the White House. Riper fruit and fuller-bodied.
Chapel Down Rose Brut NV, HK$295
This English wine has a good balance of berry and mineral notes.
The art of champagne sabrage
A champagne bottle
A sabre or sword
1 Hold the bottle in one hand at a 45-degree angle. Using your other hand, place the sword against the lower body of the bottle
Remove the foil around the neck
For safety, face the blade's sharp edge away from you
2 Push the blade firmly along the bottle ...
... when it hits the lip, the glass will break and the cork and the top of the bottle will fly off
3 Because the bottle is pressurised, there is almost no risk of getting glass in the champagne