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Fine sparkling wine was produced in wine regions worldwide, including New Jersey, for hundreds of years. There was a time when New Jersey was the sparkling wine capital of the United States. Before Prohibition, Renault Winery in Egg Harbor City was the largest producer of what was then labeled ‘Champagne’ in the United States, and those U.S. sparkling wines won awards—even in France itself! Today, with the exception of a few U.S. winemakers that were using the term Champagne on their labels prior to 2006 label regulation changes, U.S. wineries can’t call their sparkling wines Champagne, as that designation is reserved for sparkling wine originating from the Champagne region of France. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” as Shakespeare wrote – and sparkling wine by any name is beloved near and far. Indeed, bubbles have come full circle: New Jersey’s wineries have embraced sparkling wine production in earnest over the past two decades. As a result, once again, New Jersey sparkles like it did pre-Prohibition.

Let’s dive into the various methods that New Jersey wineries use to get the bubbles into the bottle.

Method One: Traditional

The method of making sparkling wine in Champagne, France is known as ‘méthode champenoise.’ Like the name Champagne, the term ‘méthode champenoise’ is restricted to Champagne-region bottles only. But, this method of making sparkling wine is used internationally and is widely referred to as the ‘traditional method.’

This is how it’s made:

  1. A base wine is made by adding yeast to the pressed grape juice and allowing the yeast to turn the sugars in the juice into alcohol. This is called fermentation. Fermentation produces carbon dioxide or CO2.
  2. The still wine is bottled, and more sugar and yeast are added before a cap, much like a beer cap, is placed on the bottle. As the additional yeast turns the additional sugar into alcohol, more CO2 is produced but can’t escape the capped bottle. That CO2 creates the bubbles.
  3. When fermentation is completely finished, the cap is taken off, the dead yeast removed, and the cork is inserted quickly. The metal cage is added over the cork as a safety measure to ensure the pressure from the CO2 doesn’t push the cork out.

New Jersey wineries making wine in the traditional method include Hawk Haven Vineyard and Winery, Sharrott Winery, William Heritage Winery, and Tomasello Winery.

Fun Fact: In 2017, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate gave its first ever 90-point score to a New Jersey wine, which happened to be a sparkling wine—the 2014 Vintage Brut from William Heritage Winery in Mullica Hill.  Ninety points from the respected publication means you’re playing with the pros – the wine is outstanding, and it has exceptional complexity and character. 

Method Two: Tank

Prosecco made the ‘tank method’ particularly well known in recent years. Also known as the Charmat method (for a Frenchman named Eugene Charmat who improved the process in the early 1900s), this process undergoes the second fermentation of the wine in a large tank – ranging from 80 gallons to more than 52,000!

This is how it’s made:

  1. Just as in the traditional method, a base wine is made by adding yeast to the pressed grape juice and allowing the yeast to turn the sugars in the juice to alcohol.
  2. That base wine is put into a sealed pressure tank, and additional yeast and sugar is added to create the second fermentation. The CO2 from that fermentation is trapped in the sealed tank.
  3. When the second fermentation is done, the wine is filtered, an additional dose of sugar and wine may be added to create some sweetness, and then it’s bottled and corked.

Fun Fact: Wine produced using the tank method is usually (but not always) bottled in one of four sweetness levels: Brut (the driest or least sweet), Extra Dry, Dry, and Demi-Sec (the sweetest). You can often find these terms on the wine bottle.

New Jersey wineries making sparkling wine using the Charmat method include Amalthea Cellars and Hopewell Valley Vineyards.

Method Three: Pétillant Naturel

Pétillant Naturel, or pet-nat for short, is considered the oldest way of making sparkling wine.
This is how it’s made:

  1. Wine is bottled and capped before it has finished its first fermentation.
  2. The fermentation finishes in the bottle, and the CO2 from that last part of fermentation is captured in the bottle. Because of this, pet-nat is usually less bubbly than wine made in the traditional method.
  3. The wine can be filtered of its yeast or not, depending on how the winemaker wants the finished product. Pet-nats that are cloudy are typically unfiltered.

Fun Fact: Pet-nats can be made from any grape. New Jersey winemakers have made the wine from grapes such as Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc, Shiraz, Cabernet Franc, Riesling and Blaufränkisch. And, when a winery releases its pet-nat, it usually sells out quickly. 

New Jersey wineries making Pétillant Naturel include Hawk Haven Vineyard and Winery, Bellview Winery, William Heritage Winery, Unionville Vineyards, Beneduce Vineyards, and Sharrott Winery.

Method Four: Piquette

Technically, Piquette is not wine because it’s not made from grape juice. Instead, it’s made from the leftover pomace—the stems, seeds, and skins left after pressing the juice from grapes. It often contains bubbles – but not always. And, it’s lower in alcohol than other sparkling wines.
This is how it’s made:

  1. Water is added to the leftover pomace.
  2. Native yeast, yeast that’s basically floating around in the air (Did you know yeast floats around in our air?), starts the fermentation process.
  3. Usually, right before fermentation finishes, it’s bottled with a cap, not a cork.

Fun Fact: Piquette is a wine-adjacent, typically fizzy bev that’s sessionable – meaning that it’s a low-alcohol drink that’s perfect for drinking over an extended period, an entire “session.” Think all-day pool side, all-day picnicking in the park, or all-night sitting around the campfire.

New Jersey wineries producing Piquette include Beneduce Vineyards and Sharrott Winery.

The next time you walk into a New Jersey winery and you’re in the mood for some bubbly, there’s a good chance they have their very own sparkling wine to taste. You may find that the Garden State’s sparkling wines replace your favorite Champagne on your shopping list.

© 2024 Garden State Wine Growers Association Supported in part by a grant from the NJ Department of State, Division of Travel and Tourism
Created by IGM Creative Group
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