Why is Sparkling Wine Different from Champagne?

Why is Sparkling Wine Different from Champagne?

You’ve probably had a friend who has run into the room waving a bottle of very cheap gas station sparkling wine around shouting enthusiastically, “who wants some champagne?” Maybe you’ve been that friend.


Unfortunately, that friend was lying to you. Probably not on purpose, though. It gets kind of confusing because some things are allowed to be labeled as champagne and they look very similar to champagne and even taste almost the same, so what’s the difference?


Let’s get to the root of the mystery here.

What is Sparkling Wine?

This definition can seem almost too simple. Sparkling wine is a wide-sweeping category of wine that encompasses any and all wines that have bubbles. 


Wines with high levels of carbon dioxide get fizzy and fun because of a natural fermentation process that occurs, resulting in these beloved bubbly beverages. 


From sweet to dry, anything that is wine and sparkling is sparkling wine.


Some popular types of sparkling wine include sparkling Moscato, Prosecco, and of course, Champagne.

What is Champagne?

Champagne and sparkling wine are like a square and rectangle sort of situation. You know how every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square? The same thing goes for champagne. Every champagne is a sparkling wine, but not every sparkling wine is a champagne.


Champagne gets its name from the specific region of France where its grapes are grown: Champagne, France. Champagne (the place, not the drink) is a region in Northern France near Paris that apparently grows very special grapes, so elite that only they can make true champagne.


Now you know.

Why is Some Sparkling Wine Labeled as Champagne?

So why is it that some regular sparkling wine can be labeled as champagne if it’s not the real deal? 


Well, this is mostly because it sounds a whole lot better than “sparkling champagne-adjacent wine beverage”. It’s not some gotcha marketing trick, it just sounds better.


In fact, if you look closely, you’ll notice many of the bottles you’ve been buying claiming are “champagne” are not even labeled in that way. Many of these bottles will say simply “brut” or “extra dry” on them, but will not specify anything else.

How Can I Tell if it’s Real Champagne?

So how can you tell the real stuff from the imposters? It’s actually not as hard as you might think, you just need to take a harder look at the label before your buy.


First, you need to be prepared for a steeper sticker price. Sorry, but real champagne is not going to cost you under $10 (that would be cool, though.) Since it’s being imported from France, it will be more costly. 


Then, take a long hard look at the label. Real champagne will state clearly that it was made in France so that it can be clear that you know it’s the real deal. If it’s from California or Niagara, sorry, but it’s not champagne. 


If you can’t see France or any other country of origin, take a look in the corner of the label. Most genuine champagnes will have the address of the vineyard in which they were made since there are only about 400 villages in France that produce real champagne.

Does it Really Matter?

But is going through all of that trouble really worth it in the end? Are sparkling wine and champagne really all that different after all? Yes and no.


Flavor notes in champagnes are typically different than other sparkling wines, and the flavor of champagne is definitely different. A lot of artistry goes into creating champagne so it certainly deserves the respect it has, but if you don’t have the money for it this weekend, that trusty bottle of sparkling wine will do just fine.