You're probably not actually drinking Champagne

The INSIDER Summary:

• Every bottle of Champagne is classified as sparkling wine, but not every bottle of sparkling wine is classified as Champagne.
• Sparkling wine is only considered Champagne if it was made in Champagne, France.
• Other countries produce their own sparkling wines, like sekt in Germany and cava in Spain.

‘Tis the season to guzzle Champagne.

With so many toasts to make and holiday cheer to spread, what better way to do it than with a bottle of bubbly?

Well, as it turns out your bottle of bubbly might not actually be Champagne.

It might be one of the multitude of other sparkling wines that exist and are often just as good, but cheaper, than Champagne.

What is Champagne, then?

Here’s where everyone seems to get confused: every single bottle of Champagne is classified as sparkling wine, but not every bottle of sparkling wine is classified as Champagne.

In order for a sparkling wine to be considered Champagne, it must have been produced in Champagne, a wine region in northeastern France.

Only around 8% of the sparkling wines produced in the world qualify as Champagne.

Besides the Champagne region, there are 23 other regions in France that produce sparkling wine.

Champagne Vineyards Cuis, Marne, FranceEsperanza33 / iStockChampagne vineyards in Marne, France.

Other countries have their own version of Champagne

Many other countries have sparkling wine that’s made the same way Champagne is made (using the classic method, which is more time consuming and allows for natural fermentation), but because it’s not made in Champagne, France, it’s not actually Champagne.

Examples include:

  • Cava and espumoso from Spain
  • Sekt from Germany and Austria
  • Metodo classico from Italy
  • Espumante from Portugal and Argentina
  • Cap classique from South Africa
  • Traditional method and Méthode Champenoise from various other countries like the US and Australia

Prosecco and lambrusco are cheaper Champagne alternatives

Then there’s prosecco and lambrusco, which are both sparkling wines made in Italy. Prosecco saw a huge rise in popularity over the last year thanks to its affordable price point and light taste.

These two wines fall into a seperate category from the ones listed above because they’re made using the charmat method (or the metodo Italiano or cuvée close) instead of the classic method.

The charmat method is less costly and less time-consuming than the classic method, because the second fermentation process — when the bubbles are created — is induced in steel tanks instead of occurring naturally in the bottle.

That’s why prosecco and lambrusco are considerably less expensive than Champagne.

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