Why do we like wines that sparkle?

a bottle of sparkling wine

Why is it that we reach for bubbly wine when we are going to celebrate? Why is sparkling wine a “special occasion” wine?

The history of wine in human culture stretches back to ancient times, when even the Greeks and Romans were aware of fizziness in wine (something they considered a defect). But it was only in relatively recent times that humans began to understand the science of how wine is made and why some wines sparkle. Even in the era following Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) and his discovery and description of the properties of fermentation, we are still unravelling the mysteries and the magic that go into winemaking, including sparkling wine.

But a greater mystery lies in our understanding of why we love, desire, and covet sparkling wine.

Yes, we know a lot about the history of sparkling wine and how it became a favorite of aristocrats and imperial retinues. But many will be surprised to learn that sparkling wine was initially prized for its health enhancing properties.

That’s all well and good and very interesting to boot. And it helps us to understand how western culture began and continues to associate sparkling wine with glamor and privilege. That legacy is a big part of the role that sparkling wine plays in human interaction today.

But what I’m asking about is why do we like wines that sparkle so much? Why is it that we reach for bubbly wine when we are going to celebrate? Why is sparkling wine — by its very nature — a “special occasion” wine?

Some of the answers lie in the aforementioned history of the royals and their preference for sparkling wine (which, as I pointed out, dates back to the belief that sparkling wine had curative powers).

But I’m curious about something else: How is it that sparkling wine has come to dominate wine culture and its hierarchies?

And that’s the subject — and conundrum — that I intend to tackle in the next couple of posts here on the Moscato d’Asti blog.

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Jeremy Parzen
After obtaining his Ph.D. in Italian literature at U.C.L.A. in 1997, Jeremy Parzen moved to New York City where he shifted his focus to food and wine. By 1998, he was the chief wine writer for the English-language edition of La Cucina Italiana. In 2005, he published his annotated translation of Maestro Martino's 15th century cookery book, The Art of Cooking (University of California Press). In 2007, he launched his blog DoBianchi.com (named after the Venetian expression for two glasses of white wine). Since that time, he has published countless articles on Italian food and wine, including bylines for publications like Decanter and Wine and Spirits, which named him a "Master of Place" in 2017. Known for his humanist perspective onto the world of Italian enogastronomy, he works as wine and restaurant industry consultant from his home office in Houston, where he and his wife Tracie (a native Texan) are raising their two daughters. A former rock musician and songwriter, Jeremy continues to compose and record music with and for his family. He was honored to be named an Italian Association of Wine Merchants ambassador in 2018 for his "profound scholarship in the humanities, his great knowledge of winemaking, and his excellence in communications."


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