Why is there a Barefoot claiming to be Champagne on its bottle? What really separates “Champagne” besides its region of origin, anyway? Food and beverage labeling is convoluted as fuck, but hopefully this overview clears up this corner of some semantic foolery.
Probably the most well-known and seemingly The Original, this one hails from the Champagne region of France. Or, turns out, some regions of California that were granfathered in during the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Alcohol = government priorities.
Grapes: Pino Noir and Meunier, Chardonnay
Sweetness Spectrum: You can find this one in a large variety of makes and models, from Brut Nature (v dry) to Doux (v sweet).
Production Method: Champanoise (the important part is that secondary fermentation happens in the bottle)
Price Range: the most expensive of ’em, though starting affordably at $30
The sparkling wine of Veneto, Italy. Generally never gets very sweet.
Sweetness Spectrum: Brut to Dry
Production Method: Charmat. Secondary fermentation takes place in stainless-steel tanks. It can ferment faster this way.
Price Range: the most affordable on the lowest end of the spectrum, and usually frizzante (shorter fermentation time and lighter feel), at $12. It can get rather pricey as well (spumante), but generally not in champagne’s price court.
Another well-known sparkling wine from Italy is Moscato d’Asti. These ones are quite sweet, if that’s what you’re into.
Grapes: Macabeu, Parellada, and Xarello (and sometimes others like Chardonnay and Pino Noir)
Sweetness Spectrum: Brut Nature to Dolce (v sweet, similar to Doux)
Production Method: Traditionnelle. Here we get into those picky semantics and zoning technicalities. “Traditionnelle” or the “Traditional Method” is the same as Champanoise, plain and simple. But France being France said that no one else could call it that, unless it was France. No one wanted to deal with France. What does it matter anyway? It wasn’t worth the time. France got its way.
Price Range: Starting at $15.
4. Sparkling Wine
This is an entirely unspecific term and may be referring to any of the above, or be a sparkling wine beverage that doesn’t fall into one of the above categories at all. Like I’d put most sickly sweet, “mango” or “lemon” flavored carbonated wine-garbos in here. Looking at you, André.
This won’t do you any good at bottomless brunch (hell, you won’t remember anything 45 minutes in), but next time you’re looking to buy a bottle of sparkly-something for a get-together or are having one or two out, try out your new knowledge and see what it does for ya. (By that I mean think about it quietly to yourself and maybe ask one question, and not lecture about it at a party or make a B annoying D to your waiter on that Tinder date. No one likes the sommelier, let alone the guy that shares his partial wine knowledge with everyone.) Enjoy the bubbles!