Champagne & Sparkling Wine

It’s been used to toast countless marriages, births, and New Year Eves; as a symbol of celebrations, no other beverage beats Champagne. True Champagne is produced only in its eponymous region in France using a blend of grapes that can include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. However the good times, and the bubbles, are hardly limited to Champagne. A surge in popularity has made it easier to acquire other, often more wallet-friendly, sparkling wines such as Italian Prosecco and Spanish Cava. These wines all obtain their palate-pleasing bubbles through a process called secondary fermentation, though the actual wines vary widely in flavor, running the gamut from dry to sweet. Don’t wait to pop these bottles on special occasions: Dry, or brut, sparkling wines have a food-friendly acidity that makes them an excellent pairing with everything from oysters to fried chicken, while sweeter wines, such as Moscato D’Asti, work well as dessert or as a foil to spicy cuisines. F&W’s guide to Champagne and sparkling wine includes lessons from top sommeliers, delicous cocktails to make at home, and the best bottles to buy (even on a budget.)

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Food & Wine: Top 10 Grower Champagnes
Top 10 Grower Champagnes
The biggest change over the past decade has been the rise of “grower” Champagnes from unknown to ultra-popular. Essentially the opposite of the wines made by the big houses, these come from individual, family-owned vineyards, often farmers turned winemakers who used to sell their grapes to the grandes marques. Grower Champagnes aren’t necessarily better or worse than those from the big houses, but they do tend to reflect vineyard character more directly. (They can be identified by the letters RM on the label, which stand for récoltant-manipulant, meaning 
a producer who grows grapes and makes wine only from his or her own vines.) These 10 winners from our tastings at F&W are more than worth seeking out.—Ray Isle

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