The Difference Between Champagne and Sparkling Wine

the-difference-between-champagne-and-sparkling-wineCould you, if put on the spot, tell the difference between champagne and sparkling wine? If not, the difference between the two could be far more intuitive than you realize.

Differences Between Champagne and Sparkling Wine 

Champagne is a type of sparkling wine that comes from the Champaign region of France. That’s really the chief difference between champagne and sparkling wine – champagne comes exclusively from the Champagne wine region.

Secondary Fermentation Vs. Carbon Dioxide Injection.  There are some other differences, though.  Champagne usually gains its fizzy properties from a natural process known as secondary fermentation.

With sparkling wine, contrastingly, you sometimes will get carbonation through a man-made process of carbon dioxide injection. There’s nothing intrinsically dangerous about carbon dioxide or injecting it into drinks – that’s how most sodas get their zing!

There’s actually more to the differences between champagne and sparkling wine that this processes of secondary fermentation (champagne) or carbon dioxide injection (sparkling wine).

Appellation Rules and Grapes.  The appellation – the geographical marker that designates the region in which the grapes were grown and harvested – of champagne differs from sparkling wine in a few important ways.

Champagne often uses pinot meunier (black wine grapes) or pinot noir (red wine grapes) to ultimately produce champagne. Green-skinned chardonnay grapes from the Champagne region of France are also sometimes used to make champagne.

The champagne in the Champagne region of France has been associated with France’s aristocracy for over four hundred years. In fact, appellation rules and labeling are taken very seriously and it’s illegal to falsely claim that your champagne derives from the Champagne region of France when it, in fact, does not.

Advantages of Sparkling Wine: Variety and Flavor.  A good way to think about the difference between champagne and sparkling wine is to say that all champagne is sparkling wine whereas not all sparkling wine derives from the Champagne region and can therefore be called champagne.

In many ways you could actually get more variety from sparkling wine than you can from champagne since sparkling wines are created around the globe. Austria, for instance, is a leader of high-end sparkling wines.

Flavor.  In terms of the flavors that champagne and sparkling wine offer, some people believe champagne has more of a creamy, nutty flavor whereas sparkling wine can have more of a fruity kick.

Price and Pairings.  Sparkling wine tends to be more affordably priced and more versatile in terms of pairings and the array of foods that go well with sparkling wine.

Cava (spanish wine) and prosecco (sparkling white wine) tend to be some of the more versatile kinds of sparkling wine. They go great with richer desserts as well as spicier entrees.

Recap of Differences 

Summing up, the chief difference between champagne and sparkling wine is that the former comes exclusively from the champagne region of France.

Sometimes sparkling wine is given its fizzy properties from a process known as carbon dioxide injection whereas champagne usually goes through secondary fermentation to get its bubbly qualities.

Sparkling wine comes from all around the world and has a greater versatility when it comes to the time of day in which it can be sipped and the food that it can be paired with.

Food and Champagne

what-type-of-food-goes-best-with-champagneChampagne is a type of sparkling wine whose red pinot noir grapes and green chardonnay grapes come from the Champagne region of France.

Best Food and Champagne Pairings 

Because the taste of champagne can vary so much based on the grapes used, secondary fermentation process and the champagne’s age or exposure to light over time, champagne can quite successfully be paired with an array of foods.

MV Moet & Chandon Imperial and Oyster 

For instance, MV Moet & Chandon Imperial is more of a sweet champagne that has elements of apple and pear. This can, therefore, make a good pairing with an evening dinner of oyster or other kind of salty seafood.

NV Pol Roger Brut Reserve and Grilled Chicken 

To illustrate the point that the fruitiness or nuttiness of a particular type of champagne largely dictates the food pairing, consider NV Pol Roger Brut Reserve. This champagne has more of a smooth, creamy taste and goes best with grilled chicken with a zesty sauce.

As with all champagnes, MV Moet & Chandon Imperial included, you will always want to store your champagne in a relatively cool area that has some protection from bright light.

This is why the idea of a wine cellar really makes sense – it’s a cool and dark and perfect for storing champagne or sparkling wine. Keeping your sparkling wine or champagne in this kind of environment ensures that the carbonation and fizzy from secondary fermentation stays part of the champagne.

NV Bollinger Special Cuvee and Deviled Eggs 

NV Bollinger Special Cuvee is another fairly affordable champagne whose taste and smoothness dictates a bold food pairing. That is, NV Bollinger Special Cuvee is a rich champagne with a smooth finish and therefore goes best with a punchy food pairing. Many recommend coupling NV Bollinger Special Cuvee with deviled eggs and a spicy sauce of your choosing.

Champagne’s Aging Process 

The champagne you eventually sip has spent many years aging in a wine cellar.  The process of actually aging the champagne is largely over by the time you pick it up at the store. Once you make the purchase and get ready to enjoy your champagne, the name of the game is really maintaining the natural fizziness and taste.

To best achieve this, store your champagne in a cool, dry place that has some protection from light. A wine cellar that stays at around 45 to 55 degrees is ideal. Under these conditions you could expect a brut to last as much as five years and a cuvee to last perhaps ten years. If you don’t have the benefit of a wine cellar, you can pull off similar results by storing your wine in a cool place that’s relatively cool and not prone to large temperature fluctuations (e.g., a cabinet in a lower floor).

In lieu of storing champagne, you might just want to enjoy it near the time of purchase. Especially if the champagne is vintage, it’s already been aged and ready to be paired with your favorite dishes.

More Champagne Food Pairing Ideas 

Speaking of high-end champagnes, a lot of people want to know what goes best with Don Perignon. Don Perignon is a smooth, vintage champagne that comes from Moet & Chandon. Due to the smooth finish and hints of fruity flavors like apricot, Don Perignon is best paired with seafood such as smoked trout and some kind of nutty flavor like toast.

The vintage and taste of the champagne largely dictates the food pairing. That said, store your champagne intelligently to get the most out of it. Or just enjoy it right away!