Champagne or Sparkling Wine? The 3 Main Differences

If you have a special occasion coming up and are wondering what drink you would like to toast with, you are likely to be deciding between sparkling wine and champagne.

Many of us will class the two drinks as being the same, and whilst it is true that champagne is a variety of sparkling wine, there are distinct differences when it comes to France’s most famous drink. We take a look at the 3 main differences between sparkling wine and champagne.

1. Champagne can only be grown in the Champagne region of France

champagneYou may have seen AOC or PODG on your bottles of wine or certain food that you eat, which means that the product that you are consuming belongs to specific region. Champagne proudly has this status, making it stand out amongst other sparkling wines.

Whilst you may refer to your bottle of bubbly as champagne, you only have the authority to do so if it was produced in the Champagne region of France, just outside of Paris.

Thanks to the Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne (CIVC), there is a strict set of rules that must be adhered to, in order for producers to class their wine as champagne.

Some of the stipulations include, ensuring that the best region of Champagne is used and only the best grapes are to be used.

2. The method in which champagne is made also distinguishes it from other sparkling wine.

Champagne or Sparkling WineSparkling wines, such as Prosecco or Brut, have a verity of fermentation methods, but champagne must follow a distinct process.

Champagne must produced using the Méthode Traditionelle, a process that involves a secondary fermentation of the wine, which takes place in the bottle that it is to be served from.

The second fermentation is kicked off with the use of yeast and sugar, where it is then left for at least one and a half to two years before it is classed as drinkable.

To be classed as vintage champagne, it will need to have come from one grape variety, so it will be classed as non-vintage champagne when any combination of blending is used.

Now you know why your favorite bubbly tipple costs so much!

3. Champagne must be made with the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot meunier grapes

While some varieties of sparkling wine can be made from slightly different grapes, from season to season, champagne must be made with either chardonnay, Pinot noir or Pinot meunier varieties.

Bright and alive in your mouth, champagne should fruity, but not too sweet, which is what you will get if you stick to the guidelines of the CIVC.

champagne sparkling wine

The dark-skinned Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grape allow for a give champagne its long, fruity undertones and the chardonnay gives it the acidic bite that we all know and love.

Most champagnes, and rosè for that matter, are made using a blend of all three grapes, but can be made from just one grape variety.

There are there are three other varieties of grape (Pinot Blanc, Arbane and Petit Meslier) that can be used to produce champagne, but these are just for traditional reasons and are not very popular in modern champagne making.

There is also the fact that champagne is almost always more expensive, unless you are lucky enough to snap up an offer from your wine dealer.

So, now we know that all champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is champagne, it is up to you to decide your tipple of choice.

Whatever drink you choose, be sure not to let the bubbles go to your head!