Sparkling Wine/Champagne Lingo

The new year is almost here!  It’s time to reflect on the year past, think about new year’s resolutions and most importantly, make plans for your NYE celebration!  Alright, maybe that isn’t more important than setting year-long goals for yourself or acknowledging your achievements in the past year but it sure is fun!  It seems that when planning New Year’s soirees one of the first things that come to mind are sparkling wines, or Champagne.  Something about the pop and fizz of a bottle of bubbles is oh so celebratory and iconic of ringing in a new year.  We’ve compiled a list of terminology to shed a little light on the difference between sparkling wines and Champagne and to decode the terms you will find on labels in the store.  Who knows, maybe it will make your shopping a little easier, or just give you something to show off to your friends and family.  Either way, we wish you a very Happy New Year from all of us at Laetitia Vineyard & Winery and happy celebrating!


– Champagne – A sparkling wine that has been made from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France.

– Sparkling Wine – Just what is sounds like, a sparkling wine can be made in the exact same method as Champagne, or in a different method that establishs the same sparkling effect, only they may not be referred to as Champagne if the grapes were grown in a region outside of Champagne, France.

– Méthode Champenoise – Just one of the methods used to create the bubbly effect in sparkling wine.  It is the traditional method used in France, and is also used in all Laetitia Sparkling Wines.  It entails a second fermentation in the bottle, (fermentation in laymen’s terms: sugar + yeast = alcohol, carbon dioxide, energy) the trapping of the Co2 in the bottle creates the bubbles.   Other methods include the Charmat Method, where the wine goes through secondary fermentation in large tanks rather than in their individual bottles and simple gas injection, similar to the way soda pop is given it’s fizz.

– Grapes used for sparkling wines.  Traditionally in Champagne, the three base grapes used for Champagne production are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.  Here at Laetitia we use Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc.  A Brut de Blancs (or Blanc de Blancs) is composed of only white grapes, while a Brut de Noirs (or Blanc de Noirs) is composed of only red grapes(Pinot Noir in most cases).  Red grapes?  How are pale yellow sparkling wines derived from red grapes?  Lack of skin contact.  The juice inside the grapes is actually a very pale yellow color and it is the contact with the red grape skins that gives Pinot Noir it’s color.

– Brut, Doux, Demi-Sec, what’s it all mean?  These terms found on sparkling wine labels are an indicator of what sugar level to expect from your bottle of bubbles.  The ranking system begins at Doux (intensely sweet) and goes all the way to Brut Nature (enamel-stripping dry).  For more on every term, reference our past blog post on sugar levels HERE.

– Vintage VS. non-vintage sparkling wine.  A vintage wine consists of wine grapes grown in the specific year indicated on the bottle.  A non-vintage or multi-vintage wine is a wine comprised of multiple vintages.  There is often a ‘house blend’ which consists of older vintages and with each new vintage, some of the new wine is blended into the house blend and bottled with a non-vintage title.  From that new sparkling blend, some is held back for the next year and the blend continues.  Essentially, the highs and the lows of different years(growing seasons, weather patterns) are evened out creating a consistent aroma, profile and ‘house style’ that can also hit the shelves sooner because the older wines included in the blend have already had time to age.

– Cava & Prosecco – Prosecco hails from Italy, and similar to Champagne, the term can only be used for sparkling wines from the Veneto region of Italy, made from the native Glera grapes.  Cava is a term reserved for sparkling wines from Spain (primarily produced in Catalonia) using grape varieties indigenous to Spain.

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