‘Tis the season for sparkling wine, and I don’t hear anyone complaining.  Ok, so I do hear some complaints: I’m hearing that there are just too many great sparkling wine choices, and people want help sorting through the billions of available bubbles. (With 49 million bubbles per bottle, I think I may be understating the situation here.)

Any discussion of sparkling wine should begin at the beginning, in Champagne. The only wines that can truly be called Champagne come from grapes grown in the chalky soil of the region of the same name in northeastern France.  These are the granddaddies of the sparkling wine world, and range in price from the affordable to the unfathomable, but the savvy shopper can pick their way through the shelves and emerge with a winner that suits their budget.

Of course Champagne is not the only source of sparkling wine out there. In fact, virtually every wine-producing region has their own sparkling wines, from Peru (yes, it’s true) to Austria.

What to Expect: Champagne Blends

Champagne is usually, but not always, a blended sparkling wine that generally includes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and occasionally Pinot Muenier. In the blend each component contributes certain characteristics: Chardonnay adds finesse and a bright elegance, Pinot Noir adds richness and depth of fruit, while small additions of Pinot Muenier add earthy complexities.