Champagne Vs. Sparkling


What is the difference really?

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.

Champagne’s Flavor Profile

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


Although the ratios vary, about 90% of all blended Champagnes use 2/3 red and 1/3 Chardonnay mixes. This is based on the structure, fruitiness, body, aroma, delicacy, freshness, and complexity of the grapes. The most commonly used wines for blending Champagne mentioned above are a harmonious combination of all of these revered characteristics. 

Champagne Making Practices

The process in which Champagne is made is called Méthode Champenoise, (also known as “fermented in a bottle”). With a two-step fermentation process, the grape juice is fermented into alcohol and then bottled to trap CO2 gas which forms the trademark bubbles (the tirage stage of the process). High quality sparkling wine is a labor-intensive process. Winemakers must add sugar, yeast, and yeast nutrients, allow time for carbonation to develop in individual bottles and then remove dead yeast cells (Le Remuage or Riddling) to reveal pure Champagne.

Champagne making is also controlled strictly by the Appellation d’Origine Controlée (AOC). From dictating how one may grow the grapes to how they may be harvested and processed, the rigorous standards distinguish Champagne. For instance, all grapes that are used in Champagne must be hand picked and pressed in a covered environment. They may only be pressed twice, once to make the ultra concentrated cuvée (which is high in sugar and acid) and the second time to make the taille (sugary, lower in acid, and higher in minerals and pigment). A Champagne may be classified as vintage or non-vintage—respectively—when wines are made with grapes of one year’s harvest or a mix of grapes from different years.

“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.

Sparkling Wine Across the World

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.

Champagne Vs. Sparkling Wine Pricing

The most expensive Champagnes can cost thousands, while sparkling wine is often much more affordable. This all comes down to the grape quality as well as the methods used to produce the sparkling wine. While most sparkling wines do implement the labor intensive Méthode Champenoise, others cut costs, increase speed of getting products into the market, and up production numbers by creating tank wine—sparkling wine carbonated in giant vats instead of individual bottles. When choosing a sparkling wine or Champagne, it’s important to determine what you’d like to get out of it. If it’s quality and care, a Champagne or higher quality sparkling would make an excellent choice. While if your budget is something to consider or the sparkling wine is going to be mixed into other juices, a less expensive and lower quality sparkling will do.

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The perfect Autumn recipe



Chicken Pasta in a Beer Mustard Pan Sauce


* 3 chicken cutlets, cut in half lengthwise
* 1 Tbs. oil
* 4 Tbs. butter, divided
* 1 (8.8 oz) package of pappardelle pasta (about half a pound)
* 1 cup of beer
* 2 tsp Dijon mustard
* juice from half a lemon
* 1 Tbs. brown sugar
* 2 cups frozen broccoli florets, thawed
* about a half cup of chopped parsley
* salt and pepper


Heat the oil and 1 Tbs. of butter in a medium skillet. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper, and sear until you get some nice browning, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from the skillet and set aside.

Back in the pan, melt 2 more Tbs. of butter. Add the beer, Dijon, lemon juice, brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Whisk until it’s all combined and let reduce for about 3 minutes. Add the broccoli and let it simmer another couple of minutes.

In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pappardelle pasta until al dente, about 7 minutes. (or whatever the packaging says) Using tongs, transfer the pasta to the skillet and toss in the sauce.

Add the chicken back to the pan, along with the parsley. And maaaaybe that last Tbs. of butter. Toss it all together, and taste it. Is the sauce just right to you? Does it need a little more lemon? Maybe some fresh black pepper? Just doctor it until it’s perfect.

Thanks to for this glorious recipe and images!

Something to spice up your Autumn

Mulled Wine or Glühwein is a warm winter German version of sangria that tastes like Christmas. Start a new family tradition with this belly-warming hot holiday punch recipe at

How to make Autumn in a glass;


1 bottle red wine (750ml) – use an inexpensive fruity red that’s on the sweet side try Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel or yellow tail Sangria

3 cups unsweetened apple cider

1/4 cup honey

3-4 cinnamon sticks

1 vanilla bean, cut lengthwise

4-5 star anise

1 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon, fresh ground nutmeg

1/4 cup brandy

1 lemon, sliced

1 lime, slice

cranberries (optional for garnish)

1 small orange sliced



Combine wine, cider and honey into a pot or slow cooker and heat over low to medium heat.

Place cinnamon sticks, vanilla bean, star anise, cloves and ground nutmeg in a small sauce pan and roast over medium heat for about 5 minutes, tossing occasionally with a wooden spoon.  Add spices to wine mixture and continue to heat for about 25-30 minutes, making sure it doesn’t come to a boil and stirring occasionally to make sure the honey dissolves.

When the wine is steaming and the ingredients have been well blended it is ready to serve.

Just before serving add brandy and about 1 cup of the sliced fruit to the mulled wine(reserve remaining for garnish). Ladle the mulled wine into mugs (leave seasonings behind) and a cinnamon stick, a few cranberries and some of the sliced fruit to each glass for garnish, and enjoy!

Mulled wine can be left on the stove to heat for many hours.  It can also be stored in the fridge and reheated the next day.

Image and recipe courtesy of;