Sparkling: Sekt

Wine & more

Sparkling wine (Winzersekt): not only for individualists

Be it New Year’s Eve, a party or brunch, a Formula One or a horse race – whenever people are bubbling over with joy, it’s hard to imagine them without a glass of bubbly, the sparkling crown jewel of winemaking. German gourmets are the world champions of Sekt consumption. And that’s why many wine estates have established Winzersekt as a fixed component on their list of offers. Winzersekt now accounts for roughly 1% of the total grape must production. According to Germany’s Federal Statistical Office, roughly 400 million bottles of sparkling wine per annum are consumed in Germany on occasions such as New Year’s Eve.

Sekt has a long tradition in Germany. The first sparkling wine houses in the country were already founded at the beginning of the 19th century. According to their own accounts, the Sektkellerei Kessler, founded in1826 in the small town of Esslingen near Stuttgart, is Germany’s oldest sparkling wine producer. In 1902, Emperor Wilhelm II introduced a sparkling wine tax (Sektsteuer) in order to finance, among other things, his war fleet. The Sektsteuer is still in place today and amounts to EUR 1.02 per bottle. Winzersekt, as we know it today, first emerged in Germany at the end of the 1980s.

Many wine estates still cultivate the tradition of Sekt today. High standards have to be kept in the manufacturing of Winzersekt. For instance, the base wine for the Sekt may only consist of grapes from the manufacturers own vineyards. This ensures that the Sekt carries a winemaker’s personal signature. The winemaker is responsible for every detail of the Sekt’s character, from the composition of the base wines down to the style. In addition, every Winzersekt has to be manufactured using the traditional method of bottle fermentation.

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That extra edge

Classic fermentation in the bottle: At the beginning of the production of Sekt, sugar and a special kind of yeast, able to withstand great pressure, are added to the base wine. This initiates the second fermentation, producing the CO2 that will later make the Sekt sparkle so pleasantly in the glass. The pressure exerted by the carbonic acid needs to amount to at least 3.5 bar – up to 6 bar can be achieved. In the original method of Sekt manufacturing, the so-called Méthode champenoise, and in classic bottle fermentation, the second fermentation takes place in the individual bottle. 

In a dark and cool cellar, Winzersekt lies and matures on its yeast for a minimum of 9 months, sometimes for years. After this, the bottles are placed upside down into so-called riddling racks. For a period of four weeks, they get turned daily and set ever more steeply upright at the same time. At the end of this laborious process, all the yeast has collected in the bottle’s neck. The bottle necks are then immersed in a brine (a freezing cold solution) to make the yeast freeze. If the bottles are opened now, the pressure from the carbonic acid ejects the yeast clot. The technical term for this process is “disgorging”.

Since the term “Méthode champenoise” has been exclusively reserved to the products of the French Champagne region for many years, Sekt manufactured by this method in Germany uses the term traditional or classic bottle fermentation.


Have a taste - and then combine to your own taste

Dry or extra dry Sekt is best combined with savoury or spicy food. But beware: The carbon dioxide exacerbates spiciness, for instance with chili. So it’s best to use a little less seasoning for full enjoyment.

Sekt is simply perfect with salads and savoury snacks. Up to a certain point, Sekt even harmonizes with the acidity of snacks such as mixed pickles and adds that little extra something. Your ideal combination for New Year’s Eve.

Terrines and Pâtés can be a little tricky with Sekt. We recommend Pinot Noir Rosé Sekt, which is full-bodied and aromatic enough to compete. Recommended style in this case: dry. Red Sekt is another great companion for this kind of food, especially if the base wine is Dornfelder or a similar variety.

Desserts also like to be combined with bubbly, provided that the Sekt’s sweetness matches the sweetness of the dessert. Light sponge cakes are wonderful companions for semi-dry Winzersekt. Try it with a fluffy almond cake – simply perfect.
 

Where to find Winzersekt

The most fun is to get Winzersekt directly from the wineries, where you can also often taste. Addresses can be found in the wineries search. Simply choose "Sekt" within "Products" to get the results.

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Designations of styles for Sekt defined by German wine law

The designations for the styles of Sekt are different from those of wine, because the natural carbonic acid content of Sekt reduces the perception of sweetness. Accordingly, the permissible residual sugar levels of a dry Sekt are markedly higher than those of a dry wine.

Designation of style

Sugar/litre

brut nature

0-3 g/l

extra brut

0-6 g/l

brut

0-15 g/l

extra dry

12-20 g/l

dry

17-35 g/l

semi-dry

35-50 g/l

mild

over 50 g/l