Introduction to Champagne And Sparkling Wine


Is Champagne really a wine?  How should I serve sparkling wines and Champagne?  Where do champagne bubbles come from? What sparkling wine suggestions do you have for me?  For answers to these questions, keep reading this article.

So the question that everyone asks is Champagne a real wine? The answer is yes it is. Champagne and other kinds of sparkling wines are made out of a blend of grapes, including Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.



What is the difference between Sparkling Wine and Champagne?

The Champagne that we are familiar with and love comes from Champagne, France exclusively.  It is also the most well-known of all the sparkling wines.  It is technically the only sparkling wine you can call “Champagne.”  For all bubbly coming from other areas of the world, they are called sparkling wine, although there are many regional specialties.  The sparkling wine from Spain is called Cava, the bubbly from Italy is referred to as Moscato d’Asti and Prosecco.  All other French sparkling wines coming from anywhere other than Champagne are called Cremant.  There are also some great sparkling wines available at very competitive prices form the U.S., New Zealand, Australia, Spain and Italy that compete very well with French ones.


What are some of typical flavors and aromas found in Champagne and Sparkling Wine?

Aroma– may be reminiscent of the smell of fresh baked bread, ripe pear, spiced apple or fresh applesauce from the yeast added in the second fermentation process.

Flavor– nutty, yeast, vanilla (usually on the finish), cream, strawberry, citrus, pear and apple flavors all are common in Champagnes and Sparkling Wines.  However, if the palate has additional ripe tree fruit, chances are it is a New World sparking wine.  Nut-like flavors and subtle creamy, yeast flavors are more indicative of the Old World Champagnes.

What causes the bubbles in Sparkling Wines?

Sparkling wine bubbles form as part of the second fermentation process.  During this phase still wine is taken by the winemaker and a couple of grams of yeast and sugar are added.  The sugar and yeast are converted into carbon dioxide (the bubbles) in addition to alcohol.  The conversion results in millions of bubbles being trapped inside a small space.  Inside the sparkling wine bottles the pressure soars to around 80 psi.  Typically, the second fermentation takes place inside the bottle (during the traditional Champagne Method).  However, it may also occur inside the fermentation tank (Charmat Method).  It all depends on the winemaker.

What Is The Classification System Of Sparkling Wines?

Champagnes and sparkling wines are categorized as Demi-Sec, Sec, Extra Dry, Brut and Extra Brut, depending on what the sugar level is.  The categorizations can sometimes be confusing.  However, just remember that in wine terminology “sweet” is the opposite of “dry.”  Sparkling wine and Brut Champagne are the most common styles of bubbly that are offered for a dry, crisp palate appeal.

Demi-sec– is fairly sweet.

Extra Dry– not as dry as Brut, middle of the road for dry.

Brut– dry (very food-friendly and the most popular style)

Extra Brut -extra dry

Sparkling wines and Champagne may also be classified as “non-vintage” (NV on label) or “vintage.”    This means it is either blended from several different years or from one year.  Vintage Champagnes tend to be more expensive than non-vintages sparkling wines and Champagnes which make up most of the market.