Cava? Champagne? Here’s all you need to know about bubbly

“I only drink Champagne on two occasions: When I’m in love and when I’m not,” said Coco Chanel.

It appears consumers share the late fashionista’s sentiments. Sparkling wine continues to outpace most other categories in shipment growth, according to Nielsen IQ, which tracks consumer behavior.

With these frothy sparklers streaming into our homes, here’s a primer to explore all their possibilities, with a rundown on the types, from from cavas to proseccos to sekts, and suggestions for bottles to uncork at all price points.

Sparkling wine

The top sparkling wine houses in Northern California make bubbly in Champagne’s image, rivaling the producers overseas. They craft their sparklers with a process known as “methode champenoise,” in which bubbly is born right in the bottle. The yeast devours the sugar, releasing carbon dioxide during a secondary fermentation. While California sparklers tend to be more fruit-forward because of their warmer climate, many are as elegant as their French counterparts. Here are three to try:

  • Iron Horse, 2017 Brut X, $56.
  • Roederer Estate NV Anderson Valley Brut, $28.
  • Korbel Natural, 2017 Russian River Valley Champagne, $16.


Hailing from the Champagne region of France, Champagne continues to have regal appeal, associated with royalty since the 17th century. It follows the strict laws of the appellation; it has its second fermentation in the bottle and follows the pressing regime of the region and producers primarily use pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay.

The authenticity of Champagne, a traditional mainstay, hasn’t been questioned. But Russian President Vladimir Putin drew the ire of the French with his recent law requiring French Champagne producers to add a “sparkling wine” reference to the back of their bottles sold in Russia, while makers of Russian “shampanskoye” — the Russian word for champagne — will be exempt from the sparkling wine rule.

It’s not clear how this war on bubbles will play out, but in the meantime, here are three champagnes to explore:

  • Dom Perignon, 2010 Brut, $180.
  • Veuve Clicquot, NV Yellow Label Brut, $60.
  • Pommery, NV Brut Royal Champagne, $40.


Produced outside Champagne, cremant is known as French regional sparkling wine. Like Champagne, it undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle but it’s less effervescent. Cremant can be crafted from Champagne’s traditional varieties of chardonnay, pinot meunier and pinot noir. But it also can be produced from pinot blanc, pinot gris and riesling.

Three cremants to taste:

  • Domaine du Petit Clocher NV Brut, $20.
  • Vincent NV Brut Chardonnay, $20.
  • Victorine de Chastenay NV Brut, $19.


Most cavas, 95%, hail from the Penedes area of Catalonia, Spain, and they are a steal for the caliber of wine.

Like Champagne, cavas are produced with a second fermentation in the bottle. In Spain, bottlings produced by other methods are called sparkling wines.

Cavas to explore:

  • Pere Mata NV Cupada No. 21 Brut Nature Sparkling (cava), $21.
  • Rexach Baques NV Gran Carta Brut Reserva Sparkling (cava), $15.
  • Masia Salat NV Organic Brut Nature Sparkling (cava), $13.


Italian proseccos undergo a secondary fermentation in a large tank, a process called the “Charmat method.” The fruity sparkling wines are made with Glera grapes from the Veneto region. While refreshing, they aren’t as textured or as toasty as bubbly with a secondary fermentation in the bottle. They are budget-savvy; some even refer to proseccos as a “poor man’s sparkler.” Here are three to look for:

  • Avissi NV Prosecco, Veneto, $17.
  • Cescon Italo Storia e Vini NV Arancio Extra Dry, $17.
  • Casalnova NV Prosecco del Veneto, $18.


Sekt is the German word for sparkling wine. German sekt can be sweeter than Champagne, but this isn’t always the case. While some sekt undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle, most is produced in a tank using the Charmat method, like prosecco.

Deutscher sekt means the fruit is from Germany, which specializes in sekt made from riesling. Here are three to explore:

  • Dr. Loosen NV Sekt Extra Dry Sparkling (Mosel), $25.
  • Kirsten NV Riesling Brut Sekt Sparkling (Mosel), $33.
  • Weingut-Kirsten NV Riesling Brut Sekt (Mosel), $17.

Cap classique

Like Champagne, South African cap classique is produced with the second fermentation in the bottle. To clue consumers in on its Champagne-like pedigree, these sparklers produced in the Cape have the words “cap classique” on the bottle. Typically crafted from chardonnay and pinot noir, they also can include chenin blanc and sauvignon blanc.

Cap Classique wines to look for:

  • Man Family Wines, Methode Cap Classique Brut (South Africa), $24.
  • Stellenrust Clement de Lure Methode Cap Classique Brut (Stellenbosch, South Africa), $22.
  • Graham Beck NV Methode Cap Classique Brut (Western Cape), $17.

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at or 707-521-5310.

Peg Melnik

Wine, The Press Democrat

Northern California is cradled in vines; it’s Wine County at its best in America. My job is to help you make the most of this intriguing, agrarian patch of civilization by inviting you to partake in the wine culture – the events, the bottlings and the fun. This is a space to explore wine, what you care about or don’t know about yet.

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