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Everyone knows that a bottle of bubbly is one of the greatest pleasures we can each give ourselves and others, but the liquid nectar sleeping behind the cork is a misunderstood creature. If you’ve ever wondered what goes into your favorite bottle of bubbles, here’s a quick and easy guide.

Grapes are grapes, right? Not so fast — while the same grapes that produce still wine can be made to produce sparkling wine, grapes used specifically for sparkling wines are harvested early to retain acidity, which keeps the sugar content low, in turn keeping alcohol low, while also creating a fresh, zippy style. Bubbles’ elusive magic is a result of a secondary fermentation, when yeast and sugar are added to a bottled but not sealed wine, creating the pressure and personality of a sparkling wine.

Champagne versus the world…

While Champagne is sparkling wine, not all sparkling wine is Champagne; in fact, it is illegal to use the word ‘Champagne’ on wine not produced in the French region. More than anything, using the term Champagne denotes a level of quality directly tied to limits on harvest yields, sugar and alcohol content, and minimum ageing requirements. This isn’t to say that other regions don’t enforce their own standards and produce quality sparklers, but simply that Champagne stands alone in its history and prestige.

But what am I supposed to put in my mimosas? The short answer is, almost everything else! Cava, Prosecco, Crémant, or domestic bubbles all have a place in my fridge. Read on to learn about what defines each region’s variety.

What’s in the bottle?

Let’s start with Champagne, a cold, chalk-lined region in the north of France, centered around the city of Épernay, along the Marne river. Champagne must be made from only allowable grapes — primarily Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier — and aged before release. Wines that are based on Chardonnay tend to be leaner, more linear, and driven by bright fruit; those that use Pinot Noir or Meunier as a backbone tend to be richer, rounder and more bready-doughy on the nose and the palate.

Prosecco is a wine region within Veneto, in northeastern Italy. Though a large region to pin down, Prosecco is ideally fruity and flowery, and usually accompanied by a light amount of residual sugar and soft bubbles. Though there are serious examples of structured, terroir-driven Prosecco, most bottlings are meant for early consumption and are spectacular in a flute on any given Sunday.

Cava is Spain’s answer to France’s sparkling superiority complex (pun most definitely intended). Hailing from Penedès, in the shadows of the Pyrenees Mountain range, Cava is almost always a blend of three grapes: Macabeo (also known as Viura), Xarel-lo, and Parellada. Like many sparklers, there are strict ageing requirements for cava that often lend the wines a richness and structure very similar to Champagne at a fraction of the cost.

Crémant is a designation used for most sparkling production in France outside of Champagne, whether it be from Burgundy, Alsace, the Loire Valley, or Limoux to the southwest, whose own sparkling wine history outdates that of Champagne. There tends to be less pressure in a bottle of crémant as compared to Champagne, and in turn a softer, more approachable bubble and overall style.

I hope this sheds some light on your favorite bottle of bubbles and encourages you to find new favorites. If you’re ever in doubt, ask your local Top Ten wine lead for advice — we’re not only sparkling sources of information, but we’re also always happy to talk bubbles, from Franciacorta to Limoux!

Cheers! -Morgan

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