Think there's little difference between bottles of bubbly? You're right but also wrong. How? Well, Champagne, prosecco, and sparkling wine are three different terms used to describe three different beverages that are remarkably similar. Confused about what is what and where their differences lie? Let's hop in and get all of your dying sparkling wine beverage questions answered!
What Grapes Are Used in Sparkling Wines and Champagne?
Your typical Champagne or sparkling wine is produced from a blend of three different grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. If you pick up a bottle of either Champagne or sparkling wine and see that it is labeled "Blanc de Blancs," that means that the winemaking process entirely uses Chardonnay grapes. In contrast, if you pick up a Champagne or sparkling wine with "blanc de noirs," that means the wine is made entirely from pinot noir grapes.
A majority of Champagnes are Brut, which is just extra dry in style, but Champagne and sparkling wine can still be made in various styles, including Brut Zero (bone dry with no added dosage) to Doux (the sweetest type of bubbly).
Are Sparkling Wines and Champagne Different?
Some people believe that any sparkling wine is Champagne. Um, hello. This is some elementary school stuff we're talking about here! THE BASICS. All Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne.
Champagne is the most famous, most prestigious sparkling wine. The Beyonce of wines, if you will. Champagne is ONLY Champagne if it comes from the Champagne region of France, which we have a sneaky feeling might be why it is called Champagne. The delicious bubbly drink is known for its tiny bubbles that create a delicious fruity taste that isn't always sweet. Some people claim they taste notes of brioche along with that delightful effervescence.
How Is Champagne Made?
Ah, we're getting into the nitty-gritty here! Don't try this at home, folks, but to make Champagne, winemakers use a process known as Méthode Traditionnelle. French for the classic method, this process essentially means The Classic Method. Essentially, Champagne gets its sparkle from a second fermentation that takes place in the bottle. Secondary fermentation is highly technical and incredibly labor-intensive.
Here's how the champagne making goes down: the grapes are picked and fermented to create still wine. Then, yeast and sugars are added to begin the second fermentation process as it is bottled. Over time, the trapped Carbon Dioxide gas carbonates the liquid and creates the bubbles we all know and love while the yeast cells begin to die (RIP). The wine, still in the bottle, is then aged for around 15 months on the dead yeast cells to impart texture and complexity. During this time, clarification occurs through a process known as riddling, which essentially means the bottle of champagne rotates slowly to capture the dead yeast cells at the neck so that they can be removed and then the bottle can be sealed. See why it's quite a complicated process?
Is Prosecco the Same As Champagne?
Now that you know that Champagne is essentially the same thing as sparkling wine minus the geographical difference, we're sure you're curious about prosecco and Champagne. While Prosecco and Champagne are both sparkling white wines, their difference is also their locations. As we said, Champagne is made from chardonnay, pinot noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes grown in the Champagne region of France. On the other hand, Prosecco hails from the Veneto region of Italy and is made mainly from Italian glera grapes.
Where Are Sparkling Wines Made?
Sparkling wines are made anywhere that wine is made! Today, the top five countries producing sparkling wines include Italy, France, Germany, Spain, and the United States.
While sparkling wine is produced worldwide, many wines differ in their fruitiness, bubble size, and methods. In fact, most countries have a distinct version of their own. Here are a few of the most popular and well-known:
Sekt: This gal comes from Germany! This sparkling wine varies in both sweetness and dryness and typically is less alcoholic and has less acidity than Champagne. Fun history lesson you likely didn't hear about in school: during the Treaty of Versailles signing, France was allowed control of the classification "Champagne." From that day forward, Germany's sparkling wine was known as Sekt.
Cava: Say HOLA to Cava because this sparkling wine hails from Spain! Produced from Macabeu grapes, this type of Spanish sparkling wine has a remarkably similar flavor to Champagne.
French sparkling wine: Yup, France has Champagne AND produces other sparkling wines. Safe to say, the French take their wines very seriously! Everyone knows the elegance that comes with locations like Paris and sparkling wine is no stranger. Outside of the Champagnes that come out of the Champagne region, France's sparkling wines are made in numerous varieties.
- American sparkling wine: Of course, our country got in on the action! There are endless flavors to discover in American sparkling wines, from blends using traditional Champagne grapes to vintages with a completely different recipe. Napa, California is always known for its wine and its types of sparkling wine are no different.
Where Is Champagne Made?
Well, this is the way if you know your sparkling wine is Champagne or just sparkling wine. If your sparkling wine is made in Champagne, a region of France, then it is Champagne. Hence, Champagne is made in Champagne, France.
Can You Really Not Make Champagne Outside of France?
Correct! France would be pissed.
Why Is Champagne Expensive?
Some Champagnes can get ridiculously expensive. We're talking thousands of dollars (we're talking about you, Dom Perignon), especially when you start getting into the vintage/non-vintage discussion. But sparkling wine, in general, is relatively affordable. This all comes down to the grape quality and the methods used to produce the sparkling wine. While most sparkling wines implement the labor-intensive Méthode Champenoise, traditional methods are used to cut costs to increase production and the number of products on the market.
When you select a sparkling wine or Champagne, keep in mind what you want to get out of it. If it is quality and care, Champagne or a higher quality sparkling wine might be right for you. But if your budget is something you are concerned with, sparkline wine is excellent!