Champagne wishes really can come true if you have the right tips on buying bubbly. There’s one just right for every taste, price range and celebration, so read on and prepare to raise a glass as we cover colors, levels of sweetness and types of sparkling wines and Champagnes.
Color doesn’t just affect how Champagne looks in a glass — it also affects how it tastes.
- Blanc de blanc
White Champagne made from Chardonnay grapes. Think bright citrus undertones.
- Blanc de noirs
White Champagne made from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. Tends to be richer flavored, with berry, earthy or herbal undertones.
- Rosé Champagne, aka pink Champagne (or rosé, aka pink, sparkling wine)
Pink-colored Champagne or sparkling wine typically made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay grapes, though other grapes may be used. It’s usually made by blending a little red wine with white before it’s fermented in the bottle. Despite its delicate color, pink bubbly is the strongest flavored of the sparkling wines, thanks to the greater emphasis on red grapes.
Sugar is usually added to sparkling wine during production, but the amount varies considerably. Fortunately, the label tells you how dry (that is, tart) or sweet the bubbly is. Here are the three most popular types, from driest to sweetest, along with what they’re best for:
- Brut, aka dry
Dryness: Moderately dry
Best for: Drinking with meals
- Extra-dry, aka extra-sec
Dryness: Slightly dry (oddly, less dry than brut, despite its name)
Best for: Drinking on its own or before a meal
Best for: Drinking with dessert
There are also a few others that aren’t quite as common, but if you come across the below terms on a label, here’s what they mean:
- Extra brut
Dryness: Very dry
Best for: Pairing with shellfish
Dryness: Between dry and sweet
Best for: Drinking with main courses
Dryness: Very sweet
Best for: Drinking in lieu of dessert
TYPES OF CHAMPAGNE & SPARKLING WINES
Best for cocktails or an informal get-together:
Mixing Champagne cocktails, watching your spending, and/or serving a crowd? Look for these words on the label to search out inexpensive to moderately priced options.
Non-vintage (NV) means the grapes used to make the wine are from multiple years. Non-vintage sparkling wines are much more widely available and cheaper than vintage versions.
Made in Italy, this budget-friendly bubbly tends to be fruity with a hint of sweetness.
A dry, earthy, and economical sparkling wine, Cava is primarily produced in Catalunya (aka Catalonia), Spain.
Best for a formal event:
Ranging from moderately priced to very expensive, these sparkling wines are perfect for a fancy dinner party or black-tie gala.
Though sparkling wines such as Crémant are produced in other areas of France, Champagne is by far the most famous. The region’s cool weather gives Champagne a naturally tart quality (though depending on how much sugar is added, the finished product can range from bone dry to very sweet).
The “V” stands for vintage, meaning the grapes are from a single year. And since vintners don’t produce vintage wines in off years, these generally are better quality wines than non-vintage ones. Vintage sparkling wines are also aged longer.
With most wines (including sparkling wines made outside of Champagne), cuvée simply means a blend of grapes. In Champagne production, however, it refers to the first 2,050 liters of juice from 4,000 kg of grapes, which yields the finest quality wine from those grapes and commands a high price.
Best for a milestone occasion:
For momentous celebrations, splurge on the very best — and most expensive.
- Prestige cuvée, aka têtes de cuvee
Champagne made from what the vintner considers to be their best grapes from the best years. These wines often have ornate filigreed labels and cost hundreds of dollars.