Sparkling Wine vs. Champagne; Is There Even a Difference?
To put it bluntly, YES!
To many people, Champagne is a carbonated wine. It’s fancy, it’s fun, and it’s the best way to celebrate!
But in reality, there’s a bit more to it.
Champagne is the term for a sparkling wine produced in Champagne, France. Yes, there’s actually a place called Champagne, and it’s beautiful!
Champagne is actually one of the coldest areas in the world to grow wine! It lies on the 49th parallel, just east of Paris, which makes it hard to grow grapes without them frosting over and dying. With cold weather only certain grapes will grow to true perfection; Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay to name a few. A majority of sparkling wines are made from grapes like these, with thin skins and soft to no tannin.
In Champagne, France they have perfected a method of making Champagne called the Traditional Method, or Methodé Traditionnelle. This is where the the wine goes through two fermentations; the first in the tank to create the still wine (vin clair) and the second inside of the bottle with a crown cap. The secondary fermentation is what creates the bubbles! As the yeast reacts with the sugars inside of the bottle, carbon dioxide is released. And in the bottle, it has no where to go, so it’s trapped inside the wine! Pretty cool huh?
Sparkling Wine is the category of wine that which Champagne falls under…kind of like how all squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares. Champagne is a sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne. According to French law and a trademark instated on the term Champagne, a wine can no longer be called Champagne unless it was grown and made in Champagne, France. There are a few other Champagne laws to abide by as well. Champagne needs to be made by the traditional method, and aged for a minimum of 15 months, 12 of which must be on its lees (grape skins, which add flavor and soft texture). There are still some wines that say Champagne that were grandfathered in like Andre California Champagne and Korbel California Champagne. But most of those wines say sparkling now as a courtesy to the Champenoise.
Some Champagne houses have wineries in other places in the world! For example, Chandon is the sparkling wine house in Napa owned by Möet & Chandon.
There are other types of popular sparkling wines in the world that also have specific names! Prosecco for example is sparkling wine made from the Glera grape and in the metodo traditzionelle or the classic method in Prosecco, Italy! Cava is a type of sparkling wine made with Xare-lo, Macabeo, Parellada, and or Chardonnay grapes by using carbonation in the Cava regions of Spain.
Each of these different types of sparkling wines have their own unique flavors and different price points. Here are some recommendations of mine for different Sparkling Wines.
NV Nino Franco Prosecco Brut, Prosecco Valdobiadenne, IT
Crisp, refreshing, green apple, persimmon, oranges and peaches. Truly delicious and delicate!
NV Pol Roger Champagne, Brut, FR
Elegant flavors of apples, pears, and citrus. Aromas of toasted almonds and vanilla. Silky and soft bubbles.
NV Segura Viudas Brut Cava, ES
Light, refreshing art lemon and lime citrus with notes of green apples and apple skin. Simple with bold bubbles.
Hope this helps!