Sekt is a sparkling wine, most notably made in Germany but the fruit can originate from outside countries. In many cases, the fruit is made into a base wine by standard fermentation processes then it gets shipped to Germany, or the fruit can be shipped prior to undergoing this step also. Once in Germany, the base wine is blended and placed in large tanks to complete fermentation. This method is similar to that of Prosecco in Italy. For a small percentage of Sekt, labelled as Deutscher Sekt, the grapes are grown in Germany. In addition to this, there is an even smaller percentage labelled as Deutscher Sekt bA, indicating all the grapes originated from one of the quality wine regions in Germany. Deutscher Sekt is commonly made using Riesling grapes, which is a part of the reason why the tank fermentation method is used in making the wine. Riesling is a highly aromatic grape variety. When using the traditional fermentation method like Champagne undergoes, the wine sits on dead yeast cells that give a bready note to the wine. The tank method does not have this step. As a result, more of the grape character shines through in the final product. Sekt can also be composed of Elbing, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, and many more but these are the most commonly used. Sekt is an unregulated term so reading the label on the wine is key to finding a quality bottle.
Austria also produces Sekt, but in much smaller volumes. In 2017, Austria adopted official labelling standards so knowing what you’re getting in a bottle from Austria can be more predictable. Sekt from Austria can be made of a combination of 36 different grape varieties but is most commonly made using Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Noir, Blaufränkisch, Chardonnay, and Riesling. The base Sekt will be simply labelled as Austrian Sekt, indicating the grapes and wine originate from within Austria. The next level is Austrian Sekt Klassik. This level of wine comes from within one of the major wine regions of Austria, gets aged on dead yeast cells for a minimum of 9 months, and is released on Austrian Sekt Day (October 22nd) the year after the grapes are harvested. The third level is Sekt Reserve which undergoes a longer aging process and gets released on Sekt day 2 years after the grapes are picked. These wines can also list a vintage year (the year the grapes are harvested). Finally, there is the Austrian Sekt Grosse Reserve. This has an even longer aging process and is made using the same method as traditional Champagne. All of this being said, what is most readily available at your local wine shop is Sekt, of varying origins, varying levels of sugar content, and different methods of carbonation (including the same method as your favorite soda).
This week, I chose a NV Hild Elbling Sekt labelled as a Deutscher Sekt to pair with some appetizers from my local Thai restaurant. One key takeaway about food and wine pairings is sparkling wine is very forgiving! It pairs well with most any dish and this week was no exception! On the label, you will see the word Flaschengӓrung. This indicates this bottle was made using the traditional fermentation process like Champagne. It is also labelled as Brut, meaning it contains less than 9 grams of carbs per bottle. This Sekt was a pale yellow wine with persistent bubbles that rose from the center of the bowl. The aromas of fresh baked baguette, lemon pith, white grapefruit, wet stone, and ripe pear were very evident upon putting my nose near the rim of the glass. This dry sparkler had a crisp acidity and soft mousse that tickled my tongue. The bread notes from the Flaschengӓrung fermentation process were perfect with the breading on the coconut shrimp and panko crusted calamari. The coconut coating was made more vibrant with the notes of citrus fruit. The fried coatings were lightened up with the acidity in the wine and rinsed away with the effervescence. There was also a light hint of honey to the wine that was accentuated by the sweet chili dipping sauce. This pairing reminded me why bubbles are are great selection for New Years Eve parties where a wide variety of finger foods are frequently served.