Sekt is the German term for sparkling wine. The majority of Sekt produced (around 95%) is made by the Charmat method with the remaining premium Sekt being made according to the méthode traditionnelle.
Around 90 percent of Sekt is made at least partially from imported wines from Italy, Spain and France. Sekt labeled as Deutscher Sekt is made exclusively from German grapes, and Sekt b.A. (bestimmter Anbaugebiete, in parallel to Qualitätswein b.A.) only from grapes from one of the 13 quality wine regions in Germany.
Some of the premium wines are often made using the Riesling, Pinot blanc, Pinot gris and Pinot noir grapes, with much of it drunk locally rather than exported. These Sekts are usual vintage dated with the village and vineyards that the grapes are from. Premium Sekt b.A. produced in smaller lots is often referred to as Winzersekt (winegrower’s Sekt), since it is typically produced by a producer which has vineyards of his own, rather than by the large Sekt-producing companies (Sektkellereien) which buy grapes or base wine on a large scale for their production. In Austria, the corresponding term is Hauersekt.
German production of sparkling wines dates back to 1826, when G. C. Kessler & Co. was founded in Esslingen am Neckar by Georg Christian Kessler (1787-1842), who had previously worked at the Champagne house Veuve Clicquot from 1807 to 1826. The names used by the German producers for their sparkling wines in the 19th century were “Mousseux”, “Sect” or “Champagne” (or Champagner), but the 1919 Treaty of Versailles forbade Germany the use of this name, long before European Union regulations prohibited its use outside the Champagne region. Sekt was initially an informal German name for sparkling wine, coined in Berlin 1825, but was in common use by the 1890s. Germany long attempted to have the name Sekt reserved for sparkling wine from countries with German as an official language, but these regulations were annulled by the European Court of Justice in 1975. Another legal decision in the 1970s abolished the large producers’ monopoly on Sekt production, allowing winemaking cooperatives and individual winegrowers to produce and sell their own sparkling wines. Together, these two decision produced the situation of the name Sekt being possible to apply to sparkling wines of varying quality level.
Not all sparkling (bubbling) wines are called Sekt, some are simply Perlwein. Sekt typically comes with elaborate enclosure (safety cage) to withstand its considerable CO2 pressure. It also comes with a Schaumwein tax, which since 2005 has been 136 euro per hectoliter, corresponding to 1.02 euro per 0.75 liter bottle. This tax was famously introduced by Emperor Wilhelm II in 1902 to fund the expansion of the Imperial Navy.
Germans also call some similar foreign wines Sekt, like Krimsekt (often red) from Crimea.
In Austria, Sekt is often made in the méthode champenoise with the Welschriesling and Grüner Veltliner grapes giving the wine a golden hue color. Sparkling rosé are made from the Blaufränkisch grape.
Austria’s history of producing sparkling wine dates back to the Austro-Hungarian empire. Most Austrian Sekt producers are based in Vienna and source their grapes from the Weinviertel region in Lower Austria. Like its German counterpart, Austrian Sekt can be made trocken (dry) or halbtrocken (medium dry).
The first Austrian producer of sparkling wine was Robert Alwin Schlumberger, who presented his first sparkling wine in 1846 under the name Vöslauer weißer Schaumwein (White sparkling wine of Vöslau). It was produced from Blauer Portugieser grapes growing in vineyards in Bad Vöslau which Schlumberger bought in 1843, and the sparkling wine was an immediate success. Stuttgart-born Schlumberger had worked in the Champagne house Ruinart before he moved to Vienna in 1842