When the situation calls for something bubbly, here’s what to serve
Event planningGuest Columnist

When the situation calls for something bubbly, here’s what to serve

What's the difference between sparkling wine, Champagne, cava, and prosecco? Read on.

(Photo courtesy of Cottonbro Studio via Pexesl)
(Photo courtesy of Cottonbro Studio via Pexesl)

If you came to my house and asked me to open my refrigerator, you would typically see some kind of sparkling wine/Champagne.

Why is that, you ask?

Well, what does sparkling wine/Champagne make you think of? Celebration!

Is there ever a reason to not open up a bottle of bubbly?

I am often asked how sparkling wine/Champagne became a symbol of celebration.

Champagne became a symbol of celebration due to a combination of historical, cultural and marketing factors. The association between Champagne and celebrations can be traced to the 17th century in the Champagne region of France, where the unique sparkling wine gained popularity among the French aristocracy. Over time, Champagne became synonymous with luxury, opulence and special occasions, such as royal gatherings, weddings and important milestones.

The effervescence and distinctive taste of Champagne, along with its association with important events, led to its adoption as the quintessential drink for celebrations.

Additionally, the marketing efforts of Champagne producers and the association of Champagne with prestigious events, such as New Year’s Eve and other festivities, further solidified its status as a symbol of celebration. The sound of a popped Champagne cork and the visual spectacle of the bubbles also contribute to the festive atmosphere.

Sparkling wine/Champagne continues to be closely linked with joyous occasions, marking achievements and commemorating significant moments in people’s lives.

Champagne, cava, and prosecco are all types of sparkling wines, but they originate from different regions and are made using different methods, which impart distinct flavors and characteristics to each.

Here’s how they differ.

Sparkling wine: Sparkling wine is a broad category that encompasses any wine with significant levels of carbon dioxide, making it fizzy. It can be produced in various regions around the world, using different methods. While Champagne is a type of sparkling wine, not all sparkling wines are Champagne. Other sparkling wines may be made using methods like the Charmat method, where the secondary fermentation takes place in large tanks rather than individual bottles.

Champagne: Champagne is a sparkling wine produced exclusively in the Champagne region of France. It is made using the traditional method (also known as méthode champenoise or méthode traditionnelle), where the secondary fermentation that produces the bubbles occurs in the bottle. Champagne is typically made from chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes. It tends to be elegant and complex and often has notes of citrus, toast and yeast.

Cava: Cava is a sparkling wine produced primarily in the Catalonia region of Spain. It is made using the traditional method, similar to Champagne, with the secondary fermentation occurring in the bottle. Cava is typically made from indigenous Spanish grape varieties such as Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel·lo. It tends to be more affordable than Champagne but can offer excellent quality with fruity, floral, and sometimes nutty flavors.

Prosecco: Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine primarily produced in the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions of Italy. It is made using the Charmat method, where the secondary fermentation occurs in large tanks. Prosecco is typically made from the Glera grape variety, although some versions may include small amounts of other grapes. It is known for its light, fruity flavors, often featuring notes of apple, pear, and floral aromas.

While Champagne, cava, prosecco and other sparkling wines share the effervescence that makes them refreshing and celebratory, they vary in origin, production methods, grape varieties used and flavor profiles.

Here are a few suggestions that you can buy locally:

Ma Maison Champagne, France, (mevushal), $11.99: Lighter-style wine, easy drinking.

Drappier Carte D’Or, France, (mevushal), $65.99: Great aroma with a complex mouthfeel (I really like this Champagne).

Binah Blanc De Blanc Sparkling Wine, Allentown, Pennsylvania, (non-mevushal), $41.99: Yep, this kosher wine is made in Allentown. An old school sparkling wine with great flavors and very well-balanced.

Bartenura Prosecco Brut, Italy (mevushal), $22.99 A slightly fruity, slightly bubbly wine that goes great as an aperitif. PJC

Uriel Marcovitz is a former restaurateur in Pittsburgh. He studies wine with the Court of Master Sommelier and holds advanced-level sommelier status.

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