Popping the cork on New Year's Eve is a long-standing tradition, but not everyone feels confident in choosing a bottle of bubbly, whether it's sparkling wine or Champagne.
Calgary’s Shelley Boettcher, who writes about wine, answers some common questions. Her latest book is Uncorked: The Definitive Guide to Alberta's Best Wines under $25.
What is the difference between Champagne, prosecco and sparkling wine?
“First of all, Champagne can only come from France. And as of Jan. 1st this is something we as Canadians recognized as international law… If it says Champagne on the bottle it must come from France and it's mostly made from pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier grapes. It's also made in what's called the Champagne, or traditional method, which means it undergoes its secondary fermentation that gives it the bubbles in the bottle.
Prosecco on the other hand can only come from Italy and it's made with a grape called glera. And it's made in a less-labour intensive way — a less expensive way — than Champagne. And then of course there's cava, which is sparkling wine from Spain. It can be made either way, just to really complicate things. And then of course there’s lots of other countries make sparkling wine. Canada makes some pretty amazing examples and in Germany it's often called sekt.”
How much do these differences matter when choosing a bottle?
“It costs less for a wine to undergo its secondary fermentation in a stainless steel tank where there are gallons and gallons of the stuff. And taste, too. Champagnes develop those toasty brioche-almond notes we all love when they're undergoing that secondary fermentation in the bottle. But a stainless steel tank will give you more apple and citrus notes.”
How cheap can we go without compromising taste? And how much do we need to spend if we want to splurge?
Boettcher recommends a $15 bottle of prosecco or cava for affordable midnight bubbles. But if you want to splurge, she recommends a bottle of Dom Pérignon for about $250. Veuve Clicquot's Yellow Label is very widely available, and she’s seen it on sale for about $60 a bottle in Calgary. In her fridge she has a bottle of Taittinger non-vintage brut reserve Champagne ready for New Year’s Eve.