Creamy Levels in Sparkling Wines
12th April 2021
Quite the opposite to the zesty and zingy style will be the ‘creamy’ description for sparkling wines, the more relaxing glass of bubbly, the take your time over to enjoy example which does call of the winemaker that little bit more effort and patience to achieve…
Sparkling wines are ever so expressive in aromas and flavours, you can list countless descriptives to include those taking you back to childhood memories so when opening a bottle of fizz and serving it will delight your senses. Sometimes they are instantly communicating their character, other times it’s all about allowing the wine to breathe in order to impress you.
As a fan of sparkling wines globally, I am always excited that little bit more by a traditional method sparkling wine of age as I know it is likely to express more complex aromas and flavours with longer lees contact achieving the likes of toasty, brioche, butter croissant, walnut, yellow stone fruits, honey and also creamy.
Why do some Sparkling Wines smell or taste creamy?
Known to be the richer in style sparkling wines, the usual way this character is achieved is by ageing the wine (traditional method) to include in the bottle via contact with dead yeast as well as the use of oak barrels to influence the wine and provide contact with oxygen.
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The ageing is the Autolysis part: Here we are seeing certain chemical reactions taking place, after initial fermentation, during which the contact the wine in the bottle has with the dead yeast cells (lees) sees certain flavours evolving. The expression of nuttiness, butter, cream, pastry, toasty, caramel, honey, yellow stone fruits and more are born.
The Oxygen is the Oxidative part: Many wine experts will spot easily if a wine has been in contact with oak during its production process. The wine is stored in oak barrels during initial fermentation and here it will absorb certain characters from the wood that include not only oak wood itself, but additions such as any charring the barrels may have had or if previously other wines were stored in them etc. The storage in oak allows a small amount of oxygen to enter the wine which can lead to the likes of a nutty expression and sometimes creamy also.
“For me, creaminess in sparkling wines can be expressed by both flavours and aromas, but also texture. Tank method sparkling wines, especially with certain Superiore Prosecco labels, I find showcases creamy via texture in the palate (sometimes also to the eye with plenty of held bubbles towards the edge of the glass), I will also see creamy in aromas and flavours too. Traditional method sparkling wines will be more towards the aromas and flavours and usually on labels of 6 years of lees ageing plus. Here we see creamy by way of mushrooms, buttery croissant, soft tropical fruits, toffee, cocoa and more.“
Other important factors that influence the wine in your bottle also includes the grapes used, the terroir (where the grapes were grown), the winemaker and also special vintages.
Creamy: The expression of creamy in sparkling wines can be via visual, texture, aroma and flavour. The expression can be from silky fruity to buttery croissant. Texture can be smooth and creamy to dry such as the sensation of coconut flakes. Mushrooms, toffee, cocoa and more all delivery to our senses that creamy character.
The Glass of Bubbly Awards, dedicated to Champagne and Sparkling Wines Globally, has it’s very own category dedicated to creamy each year with the best performing example taking home the trophy. For this article we decided to open up and experiment with all the Gold Medals winners in the Creamy Category at the 2020 Glass of Bubbly Awards to include the Trophy winner.
Gold Medal Winners Creamy:
Champagne Royal Riviera – Royal Riviera Brut: “Straight away the creamy expression comes alive in the aroma, a silky yellow stone fruit with brioche and a soft citrus with dry cheese/cheesecake. Flavours are once again quite silky and smooth, a touch of single cream with peach, apricot, citrus, minerals and a rounded brioche to soak things up.”
Motzenbäcker – Tonneau Brut: “A soft, silky creamy aroma with oily, brioche, yeast. Dry and silky taste sensation.”
Radgonske Gorice – Untouched By Light: “Very fruit and fresh in aromas with apple skin. Flavours are once again fresh, fruity and clear with a silky texture.”
Riccardo – Millesimato Prosecco DOCG Valdobbiadene Dry: “Creamy sweet pears and apples on the nose. Sweet, smooth fruity flavours, almost a vanilla fudge with single cream topping.”
Villa Sandi – Rive di San Pietro di Barbozza 2019: “Creamy over ripe pear, red apples on the nose. Flavours offer a creamy texture in the palate and alive with fresh pear and apples. Delicious.”
Vina Stoka – Prima Vitovska Pet Nat: “Ripe pear, creamy cheese expression on the nose. Silky, creamy texture in the mouth with brie, brioche and yeasty close.”
Vinska klet Metlika – Metliška Penina: “Brioche, dry cream, floral notes on the nose. Flavours are smooth and silky, the creamy taste sensation comes alive with single cream, creamy cheese.”
Trophy Winner Creamy:
Champagne De Watère – Premier Cru Brut Blanc: “Citrus creaminess on the nose, a low fat lemon yoghurt, brioche. Flavours are rich and once again silky smooth with creamy citrus and yellow stone fruits / brioche. Most elegant.“
Co-founder of Glass of Bubbly. Journalist and author focused on Champagne & Sparkling Wines and pairing them with foods.