Le Grand Courtâge What is the difference between sparkling wine and Champagne?
A question that we are often asked is, “What is the difference between “Sparkling Wine” and “Champagne”? The easy and short answer is that sparkling wine can only be called Champagne if it comes from the region of Champagne, France, which is just outside of Paris. Further, champagne can only be made using Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes.
To clarify, all Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne. We really should think of Champagne in terms of a geographical location as opposed to a winemaking style.
Where do the bubbles come from?
Sparkling wine is made by taking the simple formula for fermentation (sugar + yeast = alcohol and CO2), and not allowing the resulting gas to escape. When you ferment wine in a closed or sealed environment, and don’t let the gas from the fermentation escape, the carbon dioxide (CO2) returns into the wine, only to be released in the form of tiny bubbles after opening the bottle.
Types of Sparkling Wine
Producers from every region of the world have seized the upon the popularity of bubbly and the rising cost of champagne.
- Cava – In Spain, cava is made in many different styles, but the best examples have small bubbles and balance freshness with creaminess.
- Prosecco – The wines that sparkle in Italy, or more specifically the Veneto region of Italy, are called Prosecco and have larger bubbles, making them better for cocktails, and a focus on the fruit. They use the charmat method and are produced in large tanks.
- Sekt – In Austria and Germany, they call sparkling wines Sekt (pronounced zekt).
- Cremant – France is known for its ‘champagne’ in which the fermentation occurs inside each bottle. Additionally, wines of the same traditional ‘methode champenoise’ are produced in other regions of the country and are called ‘cremant’. They too sometimes use the charmat method.
- Some of the lower priced bubbly wines that you see in the stores are actually injected with bubbles, much like soda, so it isn’t definitionally sparkling wine in the proper context.
Three Hallmarks of a Good Sparkler
Fresh: Bright and alive in your mouth, fruity but not necessarily sweet.
Precise: On the tongue, the wine should feel direct and penetrating. Precision is more about the acid, which is mandatory for good sparkling wines.
Sparkling: Small bubbles are a sign of high-quality wine.
Whether sparkling wine or champagne, sparkling wine is gaining in popularity as people realize that it is the most versatile wine for pairing (aka the scrubbing bubbles for the palate) and transitions beautifully from breakfast to dessert and light dishes to fried foods, spicy cuisine, or rich sauces. They’re also great as aperitifs and with dishes that have a bit of fruitiness or sweetness. Looking for pairing and cocktail inspiration? Hop over to our entertain page for some delicious and refreshing recipes.
At Le Grand Courtâge, we created a Vin Mousseux using the “cuve close” (“closed tank” method, otherwise known as Charmat method) in order to create a consistency in the style. Our 90+ point French sparkling wines are produced in Nuits St Georges in Burgundy, France. We offer a Blanc de Blancs Brut and a Brut Rosé and use Chardonnay, Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Chenin Blanc and Gamay in our blends in order to offer a dry, crisp, light palate with just a hint of fruit and floral on the finish in order to create a balanced flavor profile. We wanted to create something which is extremely cuisine and cocktail-friendly.
Tawnya Falkner, the American female founder and CEO of Le Grand Courtâge and Très Chic Rosé, took the leap and moved to France with the intent to create an affordable luxury that celebrates and elevates the everyday and reminds people to live joyously. Her goal was an approachable, affordable, versatile French bubbly that is perfect for all of life’s occasions and everyday moments. Cheers!