Coupe glasses of sparkling wine and champagne

Champagne and Sparkling Wine

If Champagne as a category is intimidating to you, you're certainly not alone. Champagne is a sparkling wine that bears the name of the region it comes from. More specifically, in order to bear the name on its label, a Champagne must be made according to a long, strictly regulated list of requirements that govern every step of the production process from grape to glass. This covers details like the permitted grape varieties, which we'll get into a bit later on, along with pruning, grape yields, the winemaking method (the Méthode Champenoise, or Traditional Method), minimum alcohol levels, a minimum storage period (15 months) prior to release, and more. The greatest Champagnes are still the greatest sparkling wines in the world (and priced accordingly). But in the midrange, you can now find wines like Franciacortas from Italy, top Cavas from Spain, and wonderful California sparkling wines that rival Champagnes for quality and are often less expensive, too. Then, at the affordable level, there are excellent buys from everywhere: Italian Proseccos, basic Cavas from Spain, and sparkling wines from South Africa, the Loire Valley, Tasmania, and dozens of other places. It’s a bounty of bubbles out there.

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