As any student of Wayne's World can tell you, not all that sparkles is Champagne. Here's how the king of fizzy wines compares to the world's two other most popular sparklers, Prosecco and Cava.
You probably already know this, but Champagne comes solely from the Champagne region of northeastern France. It's made from any or all of three grapes: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. It gets fizzy via a labor-intensive process called méthode Champenoise: First, a winemaker ferments grape juice into base wine, which is still, just like any other wine. That wine is bottled with sugar and yeast, then closed up to ferment a second time. Since the bottle is sealed, carbon dioxide produced during that second fermentation dissolves into the wine, making it sparkle.
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While that's happening, the bottles are gradually tipped forward so that the lees (dead yeast and sediment) collects in the bottle's neck. Winemakers flash-freeze the bottle's neck, remove the cap and a plug of lees pops out. Before it's corked, each bottle is spiked with the dosage—a mixture of sugar and wine that determines the bottle's final level of sweetness. That sweetness level is indicated on the bottle; the most common designation, which indicates a nearly-dry wine, is brut.