Wedding Champagne

What sparkling wine is right for your wedding? Cremant, Prosecco, Cava, Sparkling, or traditional Champagne?

Which sparkling wine is right for your wedding? (L to R) Cremant, Prosecco, California Sparkling, Cava, or (not pictured) Champagne.

I interrupt your regularly scheduled wedding photography blog post to quickly right a wrong I came across in a local paper or ours here in Connecticut.

The article I read was entitled “Choosing Wine For A Wedding”. In said article there was a picture of a bottle of Prosecco. Under the picture, the caption read “Prosecco is a sweet (Italian) wine …” 

Ugh! Are you kidding me!? Prosecco is NOT a sweet wine! It’s a dry wine. In fact Prosecco is Italy’s version of Champagne which, as we all know, is (mostly) a dry (brut) sparkling wine.

Yes, yes, yes … there are versions of Champagne that range from semi-sweet (demi-sec) to sweet (doux). That is true. However, most of the Champagne you see in the U.S. is dry (brut).

Moscato d’Asti, Asti Spumante, Vin Santo … THOSE are true sweet (Italian) wines!

Misinformation like this drives me insane! Why? Because you’ve got droves of people reading this article and thinking “Oh, look, a new sweet wine to try! Cool!”. Then they buy it, bring it home, and open it, only to find out it’s not sweet at all!  

And I don’t want brides and grooms, especially my brides and grooms, buying Prosecco for their wedding day thinking it’s going to be a sweet wine. That’s just not cool!

Now, truth be told, Prosecco is a great choice for your celebratory wedding day sparkler, but please don’t expect it to be sweet, ‘cause it ain’t.

If you are new to the world of wine and are a bit confused by all this Prosecco and Champagne talk, it might be good for me to give you a little lesson on sparkling wine in general. It may even help you select your perfect bottle of bubbly for your wedding day!

Don’t worry, you can trust me. In a former life, I worked in a wine store and actually carry a certification from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (or WSET as it’s known in the biz).

So, here goes …

There are actually several different kinds of sparkling wine …

Champagne – sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France.

Cremant – a lower pressure sparkling wine from France. There are several regions in France that use this method, namely Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Loire.  

Prosecco – sparkling wine made in multiple regions throughout Italy.

Cava – sparkling wine made in Spain.

Sparkling – And of course there’s sparkling wines from right here in the U.S., namely from California.

I’m sure there are more, but those are the big hitters.

Champagne is typically the most well known and the most expensive of the lot with Cremant, Prosecco, Cava, and California Sparkling coming in at lower price points. There are exceptions to this, of course, but it’s a pretty good rule of thumb.

I could write volumes on sparkling wines – from the different production methods, the different styles within each kind, the vintages, the grapes that go into them, etc. etc.

But that’s for another time.

What I do want you to know before you head back to your social media feeds is this …

It is a well know faux-pas to refer to any sparkling wine made outside of the Champagne region of France as ‘Champagne’. ONLY Champagne comes from Champagne (France).

So, that bottle of Korbel or Mumm or Roderer or Schramsberg that you are enjoying (all California wineries) CAN’T be called Champagne. Feel?

Why am I telling you this? Because I don’t want you to lose your street cred when it comes to wine. And because it violates the Treaty of Versailles. Seriously! The French don’t mess around when it comes to their wine!

Don’t believe me? Check out this explanation from Wine Spectator Magazine

The French wanted to protect the use of the term “Champagne” to only refer to bubbly made using traditional methods from grapes grown and vinified in the Champagne region of France, so when the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919 to end WWI, they included limits on the use of the word. However, history buffs may recall that the United States never actually ratified the Treaty of Versailles, and that in 1919 the U.S. was in the midst of Prohibition, so alcohol-labeling laws hardly seemed important at the time. Domestic sparkling wine producers remained free here to legally slap the word “Champagne” on their bottles of bubbly, much to the irritation of the winegrowers in Champagne. Out of respect and to avoid confusion, many producers in the United States called their bubbly “sparkling wine.”

Then, in early 2006, the United States and the European Union signed a wine-trade agreement, and the issue was brought up again. This time, the United States agreed to not allow new uses of certain terms that were previously considered to be “semi-generic,” such as “Champagne” (as well as “Burgundy,” “Chablis,” “Port” and “Chianti”). But anyone who already had an approved label—Korbel and Miller High Life come to mind—was grandfathered in and may continue to use the term.

So, in short, you may very well see the term California Champagne on a label here and there, but it’s because it was ‘grandfathered’ in. Don’t be fooled though, it’s not ‘real’ Champagne. 

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