Champagne vs Sparkling Wine: Come Explore the Difference

2017 was BIG for us – from fueling our passion project, The Lotus and The Vines, to meeting and learning with some bomb wine friends like you! Now it’s time to celebrate this year’s successes and those to come in 2018! So, what will you be sipping when the clock strikes midnight, Champagne or a Sparkling Wine? Don’t know the difference? We’ve got you with a quick Lotus Lesson below.

So, we’ve established that every “Bubble” we drink is not Champagne. The type of Bubble depends on its origin. Champagne only comes from the Champagne Region of France. While another one of our favorite bubbles, Prosecco, comes from Northeast Italy, and Sparkling Wines produced in Spain (for the most part) are called Cava. There are many other names for Sparkling Wines contingent on where they are from, but to keep our lessons “light and airy” we’ll reference these three. So, let’s dig a little deeper…

One Time for the Champagne Bottle Poppers

Champagne is made from one or a combination of the three varietals Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Meunier. When it comes to the taste profile of Champagne, you’ll find that in addition to fruit, Champagne exhibits more yeast and bread like flavors due to the way it is made known as the “Traditional Method,” as well as the amount of time required by Champagne Law for it to be aged “on the lees” before release. The Traditional Method mandates the wine go through a second fermentation in the same bottle it is aged in. Lees are the dead yeast cells that remain in the bottle after second fermentation. To start the second fermentation process, yeast and sugar are imparted into the still wine and the yeast starts to eat up that sugar. As it eats the sugar, it creates CO2. The CO2 being trapped in the bottle creates the bubbles. After the yeast becomes full, it dies and settles to the bottom of the bottle. Aging “on the lees” creates beneficial textures and tastes. Don’t worry – processes called riddling (now mostly gyropalletes) and disgorgement, ensure that your worries of drinking dead yeast cells are abated 😉 .

Champagne is the uncontested King of Sparkling Wines. It’s the standard, and because, of this, most individuals call all Sparkling Wines, Champagne…but you’re hip now, ha. The region, the laws, the history and the methods all make it so.

Prosecco

The Glera grape

There are several Sparkling Wines that come from Italy, but from a popularity stance, Prosecco is at the top of the food chain. Prosecco comes from Northeast Italy and the Glera grape is mostly used for its production. For the most part, Prosecco goes through the Tank Method (with a few exceptions of Producers who use the Traditional Method), which is a very different, and more cost-effective way of making bubbles than the Traditional Method. Instead of in a bottle, still wine is put into a pressurized tank, and the secondary fermentation happens in the tank creating the bubbles. Because of minimal lees contact compared to that of Champagne, this method is known to create sparkling wines that are bright, crisp, and fruit forward.

Here’s a Wine tip: Bellinis were created in Italy, so this sparkler will be great for New Year’s Day Brunch with white peach juice!

Cava

Hailing from Spain, and made mostly from the varietals Parellada, Macabeo, and Xarel-lo, Cava is made with the same Traditional Method as Champagne. However, the strict laws that are imposed for Champagne production, are not required, and as a result make these Bubbles a Great value. If you come across a Vintage Cava, grab it, as like Champagnes, most are non-vintage. This is a great way to get it in a premium year, but at a much more forgiving price point.  

Time to Try it Out

Here’s a real-life application, friends! The next time you visit a restaurant or bar, ask for the “sparkling wine by the glass” options, versus a glass of champagne. Just one easy question will give you that extra Wine Savvy we love so much and make you look pretty knowledgeable and cultured!

Cheers to ringing in the New Year with one last piece of Wine knowledge. Let’s raise our glasses – of Champagne and/or Sparkling Wine – to that! Cheers and Happy New Year from the TLTV team!