Champagne v. Sparkling Wine
All in a name? The difference, it turns out, between sparkling wine and champagne is in name only. The common perception is that only grapes used from the Champagne region of France could be fermented and called champagne. Everything else is called sparkling wine.
Technically, common perception is accurate, however, there are some bottles of champagne out on the market labeled as champagne, that did not come from the Champagne region of France. So what gives?
The Treaty of Madrid required other countries in the world such as Italy, Spain and Africa to call their sparkling wines something other than “champagne.” Which explains why in Italy, sparkling wine is called Spumante, in Spain its known as Cava and in South Africa its called Cap Classique.
The reason why companies in the United States can get away using the term “champagne” is because during the time when the treaty was put into effect, the United States was in the middle of Prohibition. America didn’t sign the treaty and therefore doesn’t have to abide by the treaty’s rules.
However, not all American sparkling wine producers ignore the treaty. Domaine Chandon (their winery is located in Yountville, CA) refers to their champagnes as sparkling wines is out of respect for the French. Their parent company (Louis Vuitton) is French.
Did you know the foam you see in the glass when you pour it from the bottle is called the “moose”? It’s the same as the “head” in a beer. The more moose you have, the better the quality of champagne you have.
Three things to look for in a quality glass of bubbly: the moose, the bubbles and the taste. You should never judge a bottle or glass of champagne on the price alone. Just because a bottle of champagne is $100 doesn’t mean it’s going to be amazing. If you don’t like the taste, it isn’t going to matter what you spend. When it comes to champagne, it really comes down to your own personal taste.
The order of sweetness from least sweet to most sweet is: Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Sec, Sec, Demi and Doux. When you hear the term “dry” in reference to champagne, it means that the champagne is not sweet.
When it comes to champagne in general, once you chill it then you should kill it. Once the yeast is pulled from the bottle and the contents are corked, it’s ready for consumption. The aging process for champagne ends when the yeast is extracted from the bottle. So the longer you wait to drink a bottle, the lower in quality it becomes.