Champagne vs. Sparkling Wine

Don’t let the bubbles fool you. Although sparkling wine and Champagne both possess a refreshing effervescence and a similar trademark “pop” when uncorked, there are a few main reasons why the two labels display different names.

"True Champagne Comes From France"

Champagne, the wine, is named after the region where it is grown, fermented and bottled: Champagne, France. Nestled in the country’s northeastern corner, near Paris, the only labels that are legally allowed to bare the name “Champagne” are bottled within 100 miles of this region (according to European Law).

Originally cultivated by the Romans as early as 400 A.D., today’s vineyards that adorn Champagne’s beautiful hills and plains span 76,000 acres and 319 villages.

In addition to location, Champagne also receives its distinguished name because of the grapes used to produce it. Grown in a mild climate with chalky and mineral rich soil, the flavor of these grapes is truly unique. Of the countless varieties, only a handful of grapes across Champagne are allowed to be used for its base or “cuvée” (a blend of the first and most concentrated extraction of juices from pressed grapes). The only grapes that may be used to produce Champagne are:

  • Pinot Noir (most widely used)
  • Pinot Meunier (widely used)
  • Chardonnay (widely used)
  • Pinot Blanc
  • Pinot Gris
  • Petit Meslier
  • Arbane

“All Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne”

When determining whether a wine is truly Champagne or sparkling, one only needs to identify the region where it was produced. While true Champagnes can only be made in the Champagne region of France and with seven distinct grapes (and a slew of other regulations), sparkling wines aren’t held to the same restrictions. Sparkling wine may be made with the exact same grapes as Champagne or an entirely different blend. From Rosé to Brut (or extra dry varieties) to super sweet sparkling dessert wines, the flavors and qualities run the gamut. 

The style of winemaking which produces sparkling wine is practiced all over the world. With differing emphasis on fruitiness, bubble size, and methods, each country is home to a distinct version of its own. Some popular varieties from different regions are:

  • Sekt:  This German version of sparkling wine can vary in sweetness and dryness and is typically less alcoholic than Champagne. During the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, France was given ownership of the classification “Champagne.” Germany’s sparkling wine has been known as Sekt ever since.  
  • Prosecco:  This popular Italian sparkling wine has large bubbles and a fruity aroma—making it a common choice for mixed drinks like mimosas or bellinis. Made with Glera grapes as well as Bianchetta Trevigiana, this is most often a dry or very dry sparkling wine.
  • Cava:  A Spanish sparkling wine made from Macabeu grapes, this variety is said to have very similar flavor to Champagnes.
  • French sparkling wine:  Sparkling wines can come from France (outside of the Champagne region) and are made in a variety of sweet, dry and rosé varieties.
  • American sparkling wine: From blends using traditional Champagne grapes to vintages with a completely different recipe, there are endless flavors to discover in sparkling wines.