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Break Open the Bubbly for Valentine’s Day

Valentine's Day ChampagneHave you started your Valentine’s Day checklist: flowers, chocolates, romantic card, dinner plans and champagne?

Wait, did you notice the large selection of bubbly on the wine aisle? It’s not just Champagne on the shelf but also Prosecco, Cava, Asti and many other varieties of sparkling wine.

The terms “sparkling wine” and “champagne” are often used interchangeably, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne. Champagne must actually come from the Champagne region of France, and sparkling wine from other regions or countries cannot be called Champagne.

Champagne is made from three grape varieties that are indigenous to the region – Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. The method used for making Champagne must be adhered to in order for a wine to be officially labeled as Champagne. It is the “Méthode Champenoise.” What is important to know is that the bubbles in Champagne occur naturally from the wine continuing to ferment in the bottle, not from a carbonation method or from adding CO2.
Of course, the most notable champagnes are Dom Pérignon and Veuve Clicquot. However, when shopping for other varieties of bubbly, here are some of the terms worth noting.

Prosecco: A sparkling white wine that is made from Glera or Prosecco grapes grown primarily in the eastern part of Italy’s Veneto region. Its flavor is crisp and appley, and it ranges from sweet to dry.

Cava: Called Cava because it was traditionally stored in caves in Spain, this sparkling wine is modeled after Champagne in France and the same method of production is followed. It comes from a few official areas in Spain, specifically the Penedès region near Barcelona. Penedès is home to some of the major Cava brands, such as Freixenet, Segura Viudas and Cristalino. Most of these Cavas are made from 2 or 3 native Spanish grapes. Because of the production method, Cava is probably the most Champagne-like sparkling wine outside of France and is usually a good value for the price.

Asti: This sparkling wine is made in the southeastern part of the Piedmont region of Italy near the town of Asti. This area produces Italy’s most famous sparkling wine: Asti Spumante, a semisweet sparkling wine, and another variety called Moscato d’Asti that is sweeter in flavor.

Blanc de Blancs: Sparkling wine made from white grapes, typically Chardonnay.

Blanc de Noirs: Sparkling wine made from red grapes, typically Pinot Noir.

Other Sparkling Wine: You may assume that sparkling wines are only available in white, but they can be rosé or even red. Look for varieties made from many different grapes such as Riesling, Cabernet, Shiraz or Malbec.

Brut: This term refers to the wine’s sugar content. Brut means the wine contains less than 15 grams of sugar per liter. Other common terms include extra brut, which is slightly drier than brut; brut zéro, which is the driest; extra dry, which is between sweet and dry; and sec or demi-sec, which is sweet and semisweet.