The biddies return to the bubble train and take a look at Austrian and German sparkling wine. Both countries predominantly produce bubbles labeled “sekt”, however there are many different kinds and quality levels within the category. Tune in to learn more and hear about 5 too many “sekt” jokes.


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The Buzz, Fine Sparkling Wine Other Than Champagne

Austrian Wine

Wine Folly, Deep Dive on Sekt

Meininger’s International, The Romance and Sparkle of Austrian Sekt

The Secret to Austrian Sekt: The Traditional Method & Origin – Glass Of Bubbly

Sekt: The Chequered History: TRINK Magazine

Crémant is Germany’s Best Kept Secret – Trink Magazine

Image Credit:

Study Notes On Sekt:

*Please note these are the literal notes we created to record the podcast and sections may be copied and pasted from our sources above.

Germany and Austria

In 2014, Germany consumed over 5 bottles of sparkling wine per person–FIVE times the rate in the US! Austria comes in right behind, drinking four bottles of sparkling wine per person each year. The two countries represent the largest sparkling wine markets in the world.

  • I found that the population of 83 million guzzles some 400 million bottles of Sekt, Prosecco, Cava, Champagne, etc
  • Either way the math works out the Germans love bubbles

Germany – Seek wines labeled Sekt bestimmter Anbaugebiete or Qualitätsschaumwein b.A.  (b.A. = from one of the thirteen quality regions).  Look for estates making their own Sekt. Winzersekt means estate sparkling wine from a single varietal. (Champagne/Classic method = “Klassische Flaschengärung”).

  • Unlike the word “Champagne,” “Sekt” is not a protected term. 
  • In Germany, the large producers are allowed to import grapes, juice, or wine to produce Sekt. 
  • These bargain-basement wines are labeled according to EU minimum standards and aren’t allowed to use a protected designation of origin (PDO). Instead, these wines may say “Sekt of France” or “wine from multiple countries of the European Union” on the label. 
  • Most of these Sekt wines are produced using the Tank (Charmat) Method, like Prosecco. These wines are made for local consumption and you shouldn’t find them outside of Germany. 


  • For a long time Sekt was a dirty word and stood for bottles of inexpensive, easy fizz with obnoxious plastic corks 
  • German sparkling wine once was a prosperous category but quickly declined but is it on the rebound?
  • Still, even a tiny proportion of of German sparkling wine is artisanal. The German wine institute puts the figure at 3%
    • The 18 largest Sekt producers are responsible for 90.6% of German Sekt production
  • Germans had experimented with sparkling wine for a long time but the French had been at it much longer and were clearly ahead of the game. 
  • When Napoleon’s armies first occupied and then annexed all of the German territories on the Left Bank of the Rhine starting in 1793 which ended feudal rule and introduced civil rights so the fashion for sparkling wines changed 
  • Many germans sought their fortune in Champagne – Joseph Krug (Krug) and Johann Christian Kessler who join Clicquot-Ponsardin  and Nicole-Barbe Ponsardin and became codirector of the house
  • When Kessler left, he founded the very first German sekt house in Esslingen in 1826
  • This led to the blossoming of German sparkling wine; 1854 – the list Champagner-Fabriken listed establishments in most of the German wine regions (at this point Champagne was not a protected term)
  • Centered around one town mostly though – Koblenz which was at the confluence of the Mosel and Rhine (wines called “sparkling Hock, sparkling Moselle”
  • By 1840 Sekt was synonymous with luxury and production was estimated at a quarter of a million bottles. In 60 years it grew to 12 million bottles
  • In 1870 the English Princess Alice, Queen Victoria’s daughter visited the seven-story-deep cellars of Kupferberg in Mainz, Richard Wagner launched his Rheingold brand at the Bayreuth Festival – a festival that showcases performances by one composer
  • Problem 1 – in 1902 the first Sektsteuer, sparkling wine tax, was introduced but 7 years later, it was changed and linked to the price that favored the cheapest Sekts and gradually killed the top end of the market
  • Problem 2 – Losing the WW1 meant the territorial loss of Lothringen (Lorraine) which had only been part of Germany since 1871
    • The sekt base wine source was cut off 
  • Problem 3 – WW2; Germany was in rough shape and no one really felt like drinking Sekt anymore 
  • A law happened that confined the production of Sekt to Sektkellerein where were large producers who specialized in the process and almost all of them switched to tank by the 1960s
  • 1980s – a tax quirk changed matters: technically concerning excise duty meant that winemakers could now hold Sekt in their cellars without Sektsteur being immediately levied so these sekt stocks became bonded warehouses and some took this opportunity 
  • The shift from quantity to quality – some producers like Klaus Herres of Laurentiushof (loved champers), the Roths of Weingut Wilhelmshof (put 52 bottles of Sekt on tirage as their first expermient – one for every sunday of the year), and Wolfgang Pfeifer – a professor at Geisenheim – ran a sekt module to put his influence on a new spin on Sekt (Volker Raumland – now one of todays best Sektmakers was his disciple)
  • Rebirth of dry riesling and spatburgunder rose as well
  • 2013 – Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl (a Riesling esate in Deidesheim, Pfalz) hired Mathieu Kauffman the chef de cave from Bollinger in France to come and make wine. This change was momentous
  • The VDP is Germany’s association of elite estates and they now have a committee on Sekt and published a rule set in 2018 including a pressing regimen and lees ageing 

German Sekt

Base model German sparkling wine.

(aka Deutscher Sekt) At least these wines are only from Germany and are usually made in a sweetish-fizzy style, using Germany’s more affordable varieties from economical regions (like Müller-Thurgau). The wines are not allowed to use a protected designation of origin, but will have the country of origin on the bottle. 

Most base model German Sekt wines are made using the Tank (Prosecco) Method. This quality level of Sekt is kind of like a fizzy Liebfraumilch. 

German Sekt b.A.

Quality sparkling wine from a protected designation of origin wine region.

(aka Sekt bestimmter Anbaugebiete or Qualitätsschaumwein b.A.) 

  • Quality starts at Sekt b.A., which specifies one of the 13 official German wines regions (Rheingau, Mosel, Pfalz, etc).
  •  Wines use regional grape varieties like Riesling, Silvaner, and Pinot Noir, and it’s even possible to find some Sekt b.A. made like Champagne using the Traditional Method and a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. 

Because there are no rules specifying winemaking method (producers use both Tank, Transfer, or Traditional Method) it’s somewhat difficult to verify quality. The first thing to do would be check the label to verify: 

  1. The Sekt is labeled after a specific German region
  2. The method of production is the Traditional Method (often labeled “Klassische Flaschengärung”)
  3. The bottle has a quality control test number (in German, the A.P.Nr.)

The best thing to do would be to look into the producer and see if they list detailed information about the Sekt, including varieties used, length of aging, and vineyard areas. 


Exceptional single-varietal, estate-grown sparkling wines.

Winzersekt is Germany’s attempt to define high quality Sekt. This style of Sekt is most commonly made with the Riesling varietal, although it’s possible to find them produced of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and even Pinot Noir (as rosé). 

  • Grape variety must be listed
  • Vintage must be on the label
  • Produced using the traditional method
  • Grapes must come from a producer’s or cooperative’s combined vineyards
  • Wines must be made in the same region where they’re grown


Semi-sparkling carbonated wines.

The last classification of German sparkling is a bit of an odd duck. Perlwein is a carbonated wine (with about 1–2.5 atmospheres of pressure) that can either be really cheap and horrible or technically a decent quality wine with a protected designation of origin (PDO). There seems to be no in-between. A few producers are making quality wines, but since Perlwein is not a protected term, it’s really difficult to verify what you’re getting into. 

Austria – In Austria look for Sekt labeled “Reserve” (aged on the lees for 18 months) and “Grosse Reserve” (aged on the lees for 30 months).

****Even though Germany produces the lion’s share of Sekt, Austria recently set the standard for quality. In 2015, the Austrian Sekt Commission released a set of bottle labeling standards. The new standards launched this year on October 22, 2017 –Austrian Sekt Day!

History of Austrian Sekt

  • Robert Alwin Shlumberger, German cellar master at renowned Champagne house Ruinart Pere et Fils fell in love with Sophie Kircher on a cruise on the Rhine River in 1841
  • Sophie’s parents would not let her move to France, so Robert followed her to Vienna and founded his own sparkling wine cellar in 1842
    • His sparkling wines did well
  • At the same time others in Austria were experimenting with traditional method (riddling and disgorging)
    • In 1851, innkeeper Joseph Winkelbauer and landlord Johann Winkler from Perchtoldsdorf invented a “clip made of drawn wire” to keep sparkling wine bottles closed
      • Suggests that Austria may be the origin of the wire cage or muselet
  • Today there are about 114 wineries that produce sparkling wine
  • 10% of Austria’s vineyard surface is dedicated to production of sparkling wine
  • Leading varietals are Welschriesling and Gruner Veltliner 
  • Cooler sites in the northeastern corner in Weinviertel and Poysdorf are preferred but the most famous producers are based in the warmer Burgenland
  • For a long time only larger cellars were allowed to market bubbles
    • 1976: Gerald Malat argued that small producers should be allowed to produce and market their own fizz so Winzersekt (or to be precise Hauersekt for Austria) was created

Austrian Sekt

Base model Austrian sparkling wine.

(aka “Austrian Qualitätsschaumwein”) This wine is not allowed to use a regional designation other than “Produced in Austria,” where it’s required it be made from 36 official grapes. Additionally, Austrian Sekt must have a minimum pressure of 3.5 atmospheres (3.5 bar – the same as Prosecco). The vintage and variety may also be displayed. 

Up until 2015, base model Austrian Sekt was the name of the game.

Austrian Sekt “Klassik”

Austrian sparkling wines from a protected designation of origin.

The first level of “serious” Austrian Sekt wine quality starts at “Klassik,” which must be sourced only from one of Austria’s major wine regions. What’s cool is the additional aging requirement of nine months on the lees–a process that adds creaminess to sparkling wine. Still, Klassik is not quite at basic Champagne (which requires 15 months lees aging) levels. In terms of production standards, Klassik is much closer to Prosecco than Champagne. 

  • Nine months lees aging
  • Vintage dating is allowed
  • Tank method and transfer method sparkling production is allowed
  • Grapes must originate from just one of Austria’s wine regions
  • Released on or after Austrian Sekt Day (Oct 22) of the following year

What’s great about Klassik is that many wines feature Austria’s awesome, zippy Grüner Veltliner variety and they are usually below the $20 mark. Grab some Thai take-out and have a party. 

Austrian Sekt “Reserve” 

Premium Austrian sparkling wines from a protected designation of origin.

The second level of quality Austrian Sekt is “Reserve.” The big difference here is wines must be made with the Traditional Champagne Method, which is the same method used in…Champagne (duh)! What makes bubble heads excited about “Reserve” is the aging requirement of no less than 18 months on the lees. Putting this classification on par with (or better than) non-vintage Champagne. 

  • 18 months lees aging
  • Vintage dating allowed
  • Traditional sparkling wine method only
  • Grapes must originate from just one of Austria’s wine regions
  • Released on or after Austrian Sekt Day (Oct 22), 2 years after the harvest
  • Only allowed to be made in Brut, Extra Brut, or Brut Nature styles
  • Grapes must be harvested by hand

For a wine connoisseur, Reserve Sekt has all the pedigrees of excellence. 

Austrian Sekt “Grosse Reserve” 

Exceptional aged Austrian sparkling wines from a single village.

Grosse Reserve (“grand reserve”) first released on Oct 22, 2018, and it’s the highest level of Austrian Sekt wine. Aging on the lees must be no less than 30 months, which is quite similar to vintage Champagne (at 36 months). Unlike Champagne, however, winemaking rules for Grosse Reserve even restrict blending red wine with white wine to make rosé. The additional requirement of being from a small village is very similar to Champagne’s Premier Cru / Grand Cru classification system.

  • 30 months lees aging
  • Vintage dating allowed
  • Traditional sparkling wine method only
  • Grapes must originate from a single municipality (village) and may have a registered vineyard designation
  • Released on or after Austrian Sekt Day (Oct 22), 3 years after the harvest
  • Only allowed to be made in Brut, Extra Brut, or Brut Nature styles
  • Grapes must be harvested by hand
  • Pressed only with a basket or pneumatic press
  • Pet-Nat
    • Alongside Klassikquality Sekt Austria (PDO), there are a growing number of Pétillant Naturel sparkling wines – “Pét-Nat” for short – on offer, which are produced by the méthode ancestrale. 

These wines often convey a very pure flavour of fruit, have a fine acidity and are reminiscent of good ciders. Thanks to their modest carbon dioxide content, longer maturation on the lees and lower alcohol level, they are extremely refreshing. Zesty SchilcherSekt from Weststeiermark is a popular sparkling wine that occupies its own market niche.