Wine 101 – September 09, 2015: The Differences Between Champagne & Sparkling Wine

This Week In Wine 101: The Differences Between Champagne & Sparkling Wine

It happens to the best of us, either we mispronounce the name of a varietal or, in this case, call a bottle of sparkling wine champagne or vice versa, only to be rudely corrected by some hoity-toity wine snob. Afterwards, you’re reluctant to ask more questions and are left thinking, “Ok, you’ve corrected me but what’s the difference between the two?”

Truthfully, it’s not as complicated as you might think, coming down to a few minor details. First, only sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France, that meets very specific criteria, can be labeled Champagne. Other, similar types of wine from the rest of the world are simply called sparkling wine. Although, some “New World” wine regions label their sparkling wines as champagne, they aren’t technically Champagne.


What Is Champagne?

Champagne, sparkling wine from the region of France, is usually made from either one of the following grapes or a combination of these varietals:

Pinot Meunier

Pinot Noir


Other varietals that may be used include, Pinot Blanc, Petit Meslier or Arbane. On the other hand, “New World” sparkling wines tend to use a greater variety of grape varietals, though some sparkling wines infuse the above varietals too. The wine grape varietals used to produce Champagne are harvested by hand to ensure they are clean and undamaged. Upon harvesting, the grapes are pressed as a whole cluster (including the stems) almost immediately after they’ve been picked.


What Methods Are Used To Make Champagne?

There are two types of pressing methods used to produce champagne: 

Cuvee is considered to produce finer higher quality juice, and

Tailles is considered to be of lesser quality.

Generally, a mixture of both cuvee and tailles is used to create Champagne and varies based on regulations set by the AOC.

Stage 1: The first stage of fermentation usually takes place in stainless steel but some winemakers use a combination of stainless steel and wooden barrels during the first fermentation. After the first stage of fermentation, the process of blending takes place. Sparkling wine producers tend to create new vintages every year, however, French winemakers from Champagne are masters at blending multiple vintages together to create a signature house style Champagne.

Stage 2: After a blend has been created the second fermentation follows, which combines a mixture of still wine, sugar, yeast, and of course alcohol; the Champagne is then bottled and capped. Carbon dioxide is created and because it’s not allowed to escape, the end result is CO2,which dissolves into the wine, thereby creating the bubbly effect.

Stage 3: Afterwards the wine begins an ageing process known as Lees Ageing. Non-vintage (NV) Champagne spends a minimum of 15 – 24 months on lees while Vintage Cru Champagnes spend 3 years on lees.


Traditional Winemaking - Champagne Lees - THEGRAPE

Traditional Winemaking – Champagne Lees – THE GRAPE


Looking for a little bubbly to celebrate the New Year, special event, new job, date, or get together with friends? We’ve put together a wine list of some great bargain bottles of both Sparkling wine and Champagne that will twinkle and sing in your mouth and make you say, “Oooo… Pour me another glass please.”


Sparkling Wines:

Mumm Cuvee Napa Brut Prestige – $6.99

Andre Extra Dry California Champagne – $6.99

Freixenet Cava Carta Nevada Semi-dry – $7.99

Barefoot Bubbly Pink Moscato Champagne – $7.99

Presto Prosecco Brut – $8.99

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva – $8.99

Cruse Brut Blanc de Blancs – $8.99

Verdi Raspberry Sparkletini – $8.99

Stanford Brut Governor’s Cuvee – $8.99

Martini & Rossi Asti DOCG, Italy – $8.99

Depreville Brut – $8.99

Korbel Brut Champagne – $8.99

Yellow Tail Sparkling Bubbles Rose – $9.99

Sparkling Azahara Chardonnay Pinot Noir – $9.99

Australia Lorikeet Brut – $9.99

Cristalino Brut Rose Cava – $9.99

Wilson Creek Almond Champagne – $9.99

Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut – $10.99

Segura Viudas Aria Brut – $10.99

NV Korbel California Champagne Organic Brut – $10.99

Zardetto Prosecco 2012 – $11.99

Lindauer Brut Cuvee, NV – $11.99

Freixenet Cordon Negro Extra-dry – $11.99

Weibel Raspberry California Sparkling Wine – $12.99

Soria Asti – $12.99

Blue Pyrenees Traditional Sparkling Wine – $12.99

Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux Brut 2011 – $14.99

Korbel California Champagne Brut Rose – $14.99

Mumm Napa Brut Rose – $15.99

Gruet Rose – $15.99

Gruet Blanc de Noirs – $15.99

Korbel Extra Dry Champagne – $15.99

Louis Bouillot Perle d’Aurore Rose – $17.99

Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut – $18.99

Jansz Premium Cuvee Brut 2008 – $19.99

2009 Argyle Brut, Willamette Valley – $22.99

J Vineyards Cuvee 20 Brut NV(non-vintage) – $22.99

St. Reine Blanc de Blanc Brut Sparkling – $24.99



NV Laurent-Perrier Brut, Champagne, France – $11.99

NV Pommery Brut, Champagne, France – $20.99

NV Pol Roger Brut Champagne, France – $26.99

NV Champagne Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label, Champagne, France – $26.99

Moet & Chandon Imperial 2000, Champagne, France – $51.99

Montaudon Brut, Champagne, France – $28.99

Monthuys Pere et Fils Brut, Champagne, France – $29.99

Nicolas Feuillatte Reserve Brut, Champagne, France – $29.99

G.H. Martel & Co. Cuvee Victoire Prestige Brut, Champagne, France – $29.99

De Margerie Brut Grand Cru, Champagne, France – $37.99


There isn’t much difference between sparkling wine and Champagne, the exception being the fact that ONLY sparkling wines from the Champagne region of France can be bestowed with the Champagne label. Sparkling wines from everywhere else are simply just that, sparkling wine. We hope you enjoy the list of sparkling wines and Champagnes. Feel free to share your comments, tasting notes or other bubbly recommendations with us. Enjoy!

No Comments

%d bloggers like this: