Champagne vs. Sparkling Wine: 3 Differences You Need to Know

The Difference Between Champagne and sparkling wine - Champagne vs. Sparkling Wine

Questioning champagne vs. sparkling wine… a timeless debate. While similarly looking and often used interchangeably, there is a big difference between Champagne and Sparkling Wine.

Champagne is from the Champagne region of France and must be made from specific grapes. Sparkling wine can come from any region and is typically made with a different set of grapes.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the differences between champagne and sparkling wine. We’ll also discuss what makes each one unique and how to choose the right one for your needs. Cheers!

What’s the Difference? Champagne vs. Sparkling Wine

All that glitters isn’t gold, and all that sparkles isn’t champagne. Strictly speaking, champagne comes from Champagne, in northern France.

“Champagne” that comes from elsewhere can be made from the same process, but purists will tell you that it’s not Champagne, just as “Bordeaux” from California isn’t true Bordeaux. If made outside Champagne, France, the wine can still be marketed as “champagne” — but, with a lower case “c.”

What is Champagne

Champagne as we know it has been in commercial production since the eighteenth century. The grapes grown in the Champagne region give the wine its unique flavor.

The production process is perhaps the most distinctive feature of genuine Champagne. The wine is bottled prior to the completion of the fermentation process; subsequent fermentation inside the bottle produces additional carbon dioxide. True Champagne, then, gets bubblier during an organic post-bottling process.

Champagne vs. Sparkling Wine glass

What is Sparkling Wine

Sparkling wine is a type of wine that contains carbon dioxide, which gives it its signature bubbles. It is made by adding a secondary fermentation process to still wine, which results in the production of carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is trapped in the wine, creating the bubbles. Sparkling wine can be made using a variety of grapes, including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. It can be produced using different methods, including the traditional method and the charmat method.

Unlike Champagne, which can only be produced in the Champagne region of France, Sparkling wine can be produced in many regions around the world, including California, Italy and Spain.

Can Sparkling Wine be Champagne?

Champagne and Sparkling wine are similar in that they are both carbonated wines, however, there is a difference between the two. Champagne is a specific type of sparkling wine that can only be produced in the Champagne region of France, using specific grape varieties and production methods.

In order for a wine to be considered Champagne, it must be made using the traditional method and made from specific grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Champagne also must be aged for a minimum of 15 months before release.

On the other hand, sparkling wine can be produced anywhere in the world, using any grape variety and production method.

Serving Temperature for Champagne and Sparkling Wine

The ideal serving temperature for champagne and sparkling wine is a subject of debate among wine experts, but it is generally agreed that the wine should be chilled to around 45-50°F (7-10°C) before serving.

Serving the wine too cold can mask the flavors and aromas, while serving it too warm can cause the bubbles to dissipate quickly.

The best way to chill champagne and sparkling wine is to place the bottle in a bucket of ice and water for about 20-30 minutes before serving. If you don’t have a wine chiller, you can also place the bottle in the refrigerator for about 2 hours prior to serving.

Champagne vs. Sparkling Wine bucket

Taste Profile for Champagne and Sparkling Wine

Champagne and sparkling wine are known for their crisp acidity and effervescence, but their taste profiles can vary depending on the grape variety and production method used.

  • Brut Champagnes and Brut sparkling wines are the driest with a minimal dosage, which means less sugar added, and have a higher acidity level with flavors of green apples and lemons.
  • Extra Brut sparkling wines are even drier, with no dosage added and a higher acidity level.
  • On the other hand, sparkling wines and champagnes that are labeled as Demi-Sec, Sec or Doux, have more sugar added, which gives them a sweeter taste and more fruity flavors like apricot, peach and honey.
  • While Blanc de Blanc Champagnes are made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes and have a light and delicate taste profile with flavors of apple, citrus and bread dough.
  • Blanc de Noir Champagnes are made exclusively from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes and have a more full-bodied taste profile with flavors of dark fruits like black cherry and blackberry.

Sparkling Wishes

It’s clear that champagne is a sparkling wine, but it has its own special category. Other wines can be made using the “méthode champenoise” too-but they’re not really worth calling Champagne if you ask me!

The Cava from Spain might just about qualify as an example of how things should work.

A good quality sparkler made in France with enough originality and character to make them stand out against other similar products on offer around Europe or even internationally for those willing drinkers who love exploring new flavors without being limited by traditions.

Other sparkling wines are made with alternative technology.

Wines can become sparkling via an injection of carbon dioxide as the wine is bottled. The injection method tends to create a wine with more fizz and pop than Champagne. It can shoot its stopper further, too.

Champagne vs. Sparkling Wine bubbles

The grapes are not grown in Champagne, France which creates a different production method. This often shades other sparkling wines to have an slightly metallic aftertaste and thinner texture than their more traditional counterparts.

The resulting taste is usually palpably lighter with less sugar content making it perfect for novice drinker’s who want something light yet still crisp enough on the palate without being watering down tasting fizzy soda pop.

Whites, Reds and Rose – The Varied Shades of Sparkling Wines

Both Champagne and sparkling wines begin life as, for the most part, white wines, although one can find bubbly reds and, more frequently, sparkling rose wines, too. Sparkling wines are distinguished from their flat ancestors by the altered fermentation process.

Most connoisseurs prefer Champagne to other sparkling wines, but many champagne-like sparkling wines can rival the genuine article in blind tests, and even good sparkling wine is highly affordable.

Summary: What is the Difference Between Champagne and Sparkling Wine?

Our hope is that this has helped you better understand the difference between Champagne and Sparkling Wine.

Whether it be for a celebratory toast or to pair with your favorite dessert, we want our readers to have all of the information they need in order to make their own informed decision about which wine suits them best.

If there’s anything else you’re curious about, please feel free to reach out!

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Tom Drake
Tom Drake

Founder of Crafty Bartending, Tom is passionate about the hospitality industry. For the past 5 years, he has traveled around Europe, Asia, & Australia working as a professional bartender & bar manager. He loves consuming cookies, big macs, beer and wine.


1 thought on “Champagne vs. Sparkling Wine: 3 Differences You Need to Know”

  1. The traditional method, most often referred to as méthode champenoise or méthode traditionelle, requires that bubbles be produced naturally within each bottle by a second fermentation, known as prise de mousse, which is initiated through the addition of a liqueur de tirage, a mixture of sugar and yeast, to a still wine.

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