Wines: Champagne vs Sparkling Wine

Adam Arlen

, Happy Hour

Champagne vs Sparkling Wine

If you have been reading this column for a while, you have realized by now that I am a wine nerd. I have always been fascinated by “wines of process”. These are extremely technical wines to make, with a deeply involved process. These wines are more like baking, where it is a step-by-step process. Let’s break down the 3 most popular styles, Champagne, Prosecco and Cava.


Champagne is only made in the Champagne region of France. Everything else is sparkling wine.

These wines are made from predominantly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Since Champagne is on the outer reaches of grape growing, they barely get ripe. Getting the bubbles in the final product is what sets this region apart. The secondary fermentation is done in each bottle and must be aged on the spent lees (dead yeast cells) for a minimum of 15 months before disgorgement. The wine’s final sweetness level is determined by the level of dosage (mixture of wine and sugar) based on the house style. This balances out the super high acidity in the wine. It has always been marketed as a luxury product specifically for celebrations.



Prosecco is made in northeast Italy from the Glera grape

These wines are fresh, bright and fruity by design. The main difference is how the bubbles are made. Instead of doing the secondary fermentation in the bottle, it is done in a pressurized tank. This retains the fresh fruit in Prosecco and is less time consuming to produce.



While Champagne and Prosecco are geographic designations, Cava only covers the style of the wine and can be made in 7 different regions in Spain. These are some of the best value in bubbles for quality to price ratio. These wines are made with the same process as Champagne, but are made with Parallada, Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Chardonnay. Most of the production is around Barcelona.


Sparkling wine is made on all corners of the globe, in all manner of styles

England is an emerging region for traditional method fizz, as well as Tasmania, Chile, the west coast of the United States and New Zealand.


What I am drinking:

Unduragga Brut Rose NV

Coming from Aconcagua Valley in Chile, this 100% Pinot Noir Brut Rose shows bright cherry and rose petal with lively fizz and super easy to drink, especially for $12.99 on the retail shelf!


Wine images courtesy




Adam Arlen, Sommelier


Adam Arlen: “I am passionate about wine because it is history in a bottle.” He is the sommelier for The Peninsula Club in Cornelius, NC. Originally from Allentown, PA, he believes you should always branch out and find new things. His goal is to never stop learning and continuing to grow both personally and professionally. A fun fact about him: “I was a nuclear engineer on a submarine in a previous life.”





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