All Champagnes are sparkling wine, but all sparkling wines are not Champagne. In fact, the bulk of sparkling wines, whether expensive or bargain basement, are not Champagne.
Champagne: To be authentic Champagne, the grapes in the wine are ALWAYS grown in the Champagne region of France. Only there. Never anywhere else. No matter what the label says. All sparkling (bubbly) wines containing grapes grown outside the Champagne region of France are “sparkling” wines.
Champagne and the best sparkling wine houses use the “méthode Champenoise” process (in the method of Champagne) to naturally put the bubbles in the bottle, with two fermentation processes and – labor intensive is an understatement. The French frown on other countries which use the words “methode champenoise.” France and wine professionals across the globe have been somewhat successful in convincing some European sparkling wine producers, and other sparkling wine houses, to use “traditional method” or “méthode traditionnelle” on the label.
French sparkling wine is produced in areas outside the boundaries of Champagne –– and to the faithful, it is not Champagne.
Sparkling Wine: Sparkling wines are sometimes labeled “Champagne” in the U.S., but –– shouldn’t be. Premium sparkling wine producers in the U.S. never put Champagne on their labels, although you might see the words “méthode champenoise,” to reflect the finest process for making a wine sparkle. Gallo has produced their “Andre Champagne” line for decades (cost about $4.00 $6.00/7.50 ml). Andre buyers know and like the product and don’t care what the label says.
Both Champagnes and sparkling wines can be vintage or non-vintage. Grapes make a difference. In the U.S. and France, traditional grapes are Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.
California and Spain produce beautiful sparkling wines. Do they always compare in quality to the finest from Champagne? No, but the price difference is stark. The weather is Champagne being riskier than in California’s North Coast and areas of Spain’s best sparklings and…sometimes, California sparklings do compare comparably. The rule is to buy the best you can afford, and if you can afford Champagne whenever you want it, you’re missing out if not occasionally treating yourself to some of California and Spain’s fines sparkling wines.
The perfect sparkling wine glass:
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