After spending some time getting into the nitty-gritty of Champagne, Prosecco, and Cava it’s time to take an in-depth look at the “other” sparkling wine: Sekt. Sekt is a sweet sparkling wine that is primarily produced in Germany and Austria. The wine is guzzled by the gallon in both countries but its popularity has not yet spread beyond those borders. The reason for this is largely due to history and reputation. Until recently, the grading standards for Sekt were extremely lax; as a result, the majority of the wine available was mass produced, sickly sweet, and of low quality.
Fortunately, the German and Austrian wine producing industries have started to up their game and now it’s possible to find some exceptional bottles.
Production, grapes, and grading
Most Sekt is made using the Tank (or Charmat) method, which is the same method used to create Prosecco. This method is quicker and cheaper than the one used to make Champagne. In the Tank method, acidic wine is poured into large metal tanks. Then a mixture of yeast and sugar is added to the wine and the tank is sealed. The yeast consumes the sugar and as a result, releases bubbles that carbonate the wine. The wine is then aged. Once aged, the wine is poured into bottles and additional sugar is added before the bottle is sealed and then shipped to stores.
Just to complicate things, however, depending on the producer, some Sekts are made using the same method used to make Champagne. Unsurprisingly, these wines tend to be more expensive.
There are few concrete standards on which grapes should be used to make Sekt. However, good quality versions will be made from a combination of certain German and Austrian grapes such as Riensling, Gruner Veltliner, Blaufrankisch, Grasevina, Hewurz-Traminer, and Neuberger.
Unlike Champagne, there are no rules that prevent any sparkling wine to be labeled as Sekt. This can make purchasing a bottle a bit of a gamble. and the risk of accidentally purchasing a bottle of saccharine fizzy plonk is pretty high.
Sekt does need to be made in Germany or Austria to be labeled as such, but it does not need to be made from German grapes. Consequentially, Sekt made from grapes that did not originate in Germany will state this on the label. Fortunately, in recent years a grading system has been introduced that makes it easier to pick out good Sekt.
The grading systems used by Germany and Austria differ slightly, but at their core, they are pretty much the same.
Sekt: This donates a sparkling wine made anywhere in the Sekt style using a combination of grapes that did not originate in Germany. This is the lowest grade available and generally should be avoided.
German Sekt: These wines are made in Germany, however, they may still use grapes that did not originate in Germany. They are often made using cheaper grapes.
Sekt b.A.: These are Sekts that are made in Germany using grapes from one of the countries 13 main wine growing regions.
Winzersekt: These wines are almost always made with single origin Rieslings. These are usually of an exceptionally high quality.
Sekt: Just like German Sekt, these wines can be made pretty much anywhere using a combination of grapes that did not originate in Austria.
Austrian Sekt: These wines must be made in Austria using a blend of any of the 36 grapes designated for use in Sekt. Not all of these grapes originate in the country.
Klassik: This wines must be made using grapes from the major Austrian wine growing regions. These wines are also aged in bottles containing yeast (on the lees) for at least 9 months.
Reserve: These wines are made using the same method as Champagne and must be aged for at least 18 months on the lees. These wines are usually of exceptionally high quality.
Due to the surplus of terrible Sekt available and the sheer number of different grapes used, it’s difficult to lay out a clear flavor profile for this sparkling wine. Cheap Sekt is essentially an overly sweet carbonated wine that tastes more like a sickly soda. When you start exploring the higher quality tiers, the appeal of this wine becomes clear.
Regardless of the quality, Sekt tends to be sweeter than Champagne, Cava, and Prosecco. Expect to taste strong fruity and floral notes with hints of citrus fruits and jasmine with an almost creamy texture. Other notes include pears, marmalade, melon, and peach.
As it is often very sweet, Sekt works best as a dessert wine or when paired with sweet foods and cheeses. Try pairing the wine with some mild soft cheese like Brie and Camembert. The sweet flavors found in holiday fairs like turkey, cranberries, nutmeg and cinnamon pair very well with Sekt.