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Champagne and Sparkling Wine, whats the difference?

Being in my late 20’s I will be the first to admit that most of my friends know very little when it comes to Champagne and Sparkling wine. One of my biggest pet peeves is hearing them call everything that has bubbles “Champagne”. It also seems to annoy them when I correct them, which is when they usually say something snarky like “whatever, same difference!” So I would like to set the record straight, right here and now and explain to my friends, and anyone else who may be confused on the difference between Champagne, and Sparkling Wine.

First things first let’s get more specific and break out some of the main types there are, because there is more than just Champagne and Sparkling wine.

Champagne – Is from Champagne France (AKA Champagne).

Prosecco – Is from Veneto, Italy (AKA Sparkling Wine).

Cava – Is mostly from Catalonia, Spain (AKA Sparkling Wine).

American Sparkling Wine– From the U.S. (AKA Sparkling Wine).

So if you are catching on, only Champagne from Champagne can be called Champagne. Or in other words if it’s not made in Champagne France it’s technically Sparkling Wine.

Let’s dive a little deeper and find out more about what makes each one unique.

There are 3 ways to make wine bubbly:

  1. Méthode Champenoise/Traditional – Fermented in each bottle individually.
  2. Transfer Method- Fermented in bottle but transferred to a tank to get filtered.
  3. Charmat Method/Tank – Fermented in a large tank

So back to our list of bubbly wines, here is how each type is made:

Champagne is always made with the Méthode Champenoise.

Prosecco is always made with the Charmat Method.

Cava is always made with the Traditional Method (Can only be called Methode Chamoenoise when in Champagne).

American Sparkling Wine varies depending on the brand.

Last but not least is what grapes each type uses:

Champagne made with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier grapes.

Prosecco made with Glaera grape.

Cava made with Macabeu, Parellada, and Xarello grapes.

American Sparkling Wine really depends on the brand.

After all the technicalities I think the easiest and most important thing to remember is, “All Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne.”

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