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Champagne vs. Bubbly

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It's Valentine's Day and that means it's time to break out the bubbles. You take your valentine to a nice dinner, and are confronted with a confusing array of choices. It's easy to get confused. Champagne is bubbly, true, but there are lots of bubbles out there. You look at the wine list next to the Valentine’s Dinner menu and see your Favorite French Champagne names… Piper, Chandon, Mumm, Roederer…. in the ‘California’ section.

Aren't these Champagne? Not quite. Only sparkling Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and/or Pinot Meunier blends produced in the Champagne region of France can truly be called "Champagne".

Sparkling wines made outside of France may use names like "California Champagne". But French companies producing bubbly in California won’t use the name Champagne outside of the official region. You will see names such as:

Piper Sonoma Brut Select Cuvee (produced by Piper Heidseck)
Domaine Chandon Brut (produced by Moet et Chandon)
Roederer Estate Brut NV (produced by Louis Roederer)
Mumm Cuvee Napa (produced by GH Mumm et Cie)

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So what’s the difference? What should you order to begin the most romantic of feasts? The numerous differences will be reflected in the prices. French Champagnes tend to cost 2 to 3 times more than their California offspring: $30 to $45 a glass. They will be more elegant and well balanced with smaller longer lasting pinpoint bubbles. The California Sparklers, at $12 to $25 a glass will still be toasty, somewhat less yeasty, with more pronounced aromas and flavors of fruit like apple and citrus.

Whichever Bubbly you choose will be crisp and lively. Like your choice of location, food, and gift, it will depend on your budget - or your willingness to exceed it for that special someone!

Post written by Greg Thompson/Photo by Gaetan Lee via Flickr