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Wine 101: Champagne & Sparkling Wines

Champagne—that is, real Champagne—is produced only in the Champagne region of France, and it’s pretty much universally hailed as the greatest sparkling wine in the world. It’s effervescent and lively, and at the same time it offers tremendous complexity and finesse.

Champagnes are usually a blend of grapes, typically Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, often with a touch of Pinot Meunier as well. They range from dry (brut) to mildly sweet (demi-sec) to very sweet (doux). Different producers, or “houses,” have different styles, too, ranging from light and delicate to rich and full-flavored.

That all said, many other countries make excellent sparkling wines. Those from North America tend to be more fruit-forward than most Champagnes. Cava, an inexpensive sparkler from Spain, often has an earthy character. Italy’s Prosecco is also affordable, and popular for its engaging foaminess and hint of sweetness on the finish. Sparkling wines make great aperitifs, but they’re also good throughout the meal, especially with shellfish and salty or spicy dishes.

Dry, Light Champagne

Top Bottles

  • Perrier Jouët Grand Brut (France)
  • Guy Charlemagne Blanc de Blancs Champagne (France)
  • Taittinger Brut La Française (France)

Recipe Pairings

Dry, Rich Champagne

Top Bottles

  • Pol Roger Brut NV (France)
  • Gosset Brut Excellence (France)
  • Bollinger Brut Special Cuvée (France)

Recipe Pairings

Dry, Fruity Sparkling Wine

Top Bottles

  • Zardetto Prosecco Brut (Italy)
  • Mionetto Prosecco (Italy)
  • Domaine Carneros Brut (California)
  • Mumm Napa Brut Prestige (California)

Recipe Pairings

Dry, Earthy Sparkling Wine

Top Bottles

  • Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut Cava (Spain)
  • Gramona Gran Cuvée (Spain)
  • Mont Marçal Brut Reserva Cava (Spain)

Recipe Pairings

More Expert Wine Advice

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