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Where Do the Bubbles Come From? Differences Between Champagne & Sparkling Wine

Dec 06, 2017 06:22PM ● By Melanie Heisinger

By Linda Ditch

While many people use the term “champagne” to mean any sparkling beverage, there is a difference between champagne and sparkling wine. The term champagne signifies a specific type of French sparkling wine that comes from the Champagne region. (Some U.S. producers label their sparkling wines as champagne because it is made in the same fashion as their European counterpart.)

Champagne is created with the méthode champenoise process. The grapes are pressed and fermented. Then a second fermentation takes place after the wine is bottled with yeast and a bit of sugar. This is when the yeast emits the carbon dioxide to create the bubbles. The final two steps are riddling (when each bottle is stored nose down and rotated each day to allow the dead yeast and sediment to collect in the bottle’s mouth) and disgorging (when the sediment is released from the bottle, either by hand or by freezing the sediment in the neck and then removing the frozen plug.) This labor-intensive process is the reason Champagne is often a bit pricier than sparkling wine.

In contrast, sparkling wines get their bubbles in one of three ways: The transfer process, where the wine is bottled for its second fermentation, then filtered and placed in another bottle for sale; the charmat process, where the second fermentation takes place in a large tank; or the least expensive method where carbonation is injected into the bottle. Sparkling wines come from many regions in the world. Two of the most well-known are Prosecco from Italy and Cava from Spain.

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