What is a vintage sparkling wine? guide to the technical terms of bubbles

Cos’è uno spumante millesimato? guida ai termini tecnici delle bollicine

Vintage sparkling wine, cuvée, draft liqueur, sabrage... all the terms of bubbles you need to know to make a great impression and understand sparkling wines. Here is the complete guide by Sommelier Wine Box.

Everything you need to know about the technical terms of sparkling wine, in a complete guide, from the Classic Method to the Charmat Method, passing through ancestral fermentations.

Vintage sparkling wine

The term vintage originates in France (in the Champagne region); in French “millésime” which means “ vintage ”. A vintage wine - and therefore a vintage sparkling wine - is produced with at least 85% of grapes harvested in the same year. Therefore, after the word "vintage" there must also follow the indication of the specific vintage.

It is a sign of quality because it is difficult to obtain a balanced wine by limiting the blends, and when this happens, bottles of great value are produced, which is highlighted on the label .

A particular case occurs with Prosecco, which is a Charmat Method practically always produced with grapes harvested in the same year. Indicating on the label that it is a vintage Prosecco therefore does not add much, but it is indicated to insist on quality.

When there is no vintage in the sparkling wine, technically it means that wines of different vintages have been stored in the cellar and are expertly assembled.

- Read also: difference between Classic Method and Charmat Method


The cuvée is the opposite concept of vintage, or the blend of different wines . Most sparkling wines, in fact, are the result of blends, to seek the harmony of flavors by making the most of the characteristics of the different vintages, or rather of each single vintage. When wines from different vintages are blended, we speak of a cuvée.


Grape variety indicates that different grapes are assembled and vinified together. The blending is a typical practice of sparkling wines. The goal is to create the desired balance of flavors, balancing with the types of different grapes.

Liqueur de tirage

Term which in Italian translates as draft liqueur. Draft is a term that indicates the phase of production of Classic Method sparkling wines in which the second fermentation inside the bottle is promoted . Among these various operations there is the addition of the liqueur de tirage.

It is a mixture of wine, sugar, yeasts and mineral substances, which producers can naturally customize: it is added to the wine because it activates the second fermentation in the bottle, which follows with the formation of the wonderful bubbles.

- Read also: how to find your way around sparkling wines

Expedition liqueur

In Italian: dosage syrup. By dosage we mean one of the final phases of the production of sparkling wines produced with the Classic Method. The liqueur d'expédition is used to "fill" the bottles of sparkling wine .

The neck of the bottle is frozen upside down to collect residues towards the cork, which are eliminated. At that point it is necessary to fill the bottles with the dosage syrup or liqueur d'expédition.

It is a mixture of wine, sugar and other sometimes "secret" substances. Depending on its composition, the wine will acquire its typical characteristics, which will make us love it. It is at that point that the quantity of sugar defines whether the sparkling wine will be Extra brut, Brut, Extra dry, Dry, Demi-sec, Dolce.


It is a bottle with a capacity of 1.5 litres , double the classic one. It is not exclusive to sparkling wines but the magnum is typical of sparkling wine, because it allows more people to toast. It is a symbol of quality, because inside the wine ages more slowly.

- Read also: why the bottles are 0.75 cl

Petillant naturel or Pét-nat

Natural sparkling. Indicates a wine derived from the ancestral method ( bottled while still undergoing its first fermentation cycle) , which may have deposits (called “col fond” or “sur lies”).


The term was already used in the seventeenth century, by the monks of Burgundy who cultivated vines to produce wine, to indicate the best plots available. To recognize them, the vineyards were protected by small walls that marked their borders. The term cru was then added to the name of the specific vineyard and this allowed the best quality of the wine produced from those vineyards to be recognised.

Even today it is synonymous with quality wine: it indicates a single vineyard, from which a superior quality wine is obtained. This means that in the vine-soil combination the influence of the vintage and the climatic trend are rather limited, guaranteeing homogeneous quality over time.

Blanc de Blancs

A sparkling wine made from white grapes . The most famous grape in the world for the production of sparkling wine is undoubtedly the Chardonnay grape.

Blanc de Noirs

A sparkling wine made from black grapes . The word literally means a white from black. The most famous black grape in the world for the production of sparkling wines is pinot noir .


We then come to the moment of opening the sparkling wine, and the most spectacular opening. Sabrage is the French word for sabre-making , or opening a bottle of sparkling wine with a sabre. It has been practiced since the time of Napoleon when French troops celebrated victories in battle by uncorking Champagne with the sword.

In short: the neck of the bottle freezes and with a (not strong) oblique blow the neck of the bottle pops off and you can toast.

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