Many of us enjoy a glass of classic champagne or a sparkling alternative during celebrations, and weddings are no exception. As your big day approaches, you’ll need to decide on a drink menu for the wedding. More importantly, you’ll need to decide between champagne and sparkling wine. We’ve created this bridal guide to help you learn the four main differences between these bubbly options!
Where It’s Made & the Ingredients
We’ve paired the first two differences together because they relate to one another. Often, the ingredients used in alcohol depend on foods grown in that region. While champagne is a type of wine, it isn’t identical to sparkling, nor are any wines the same. The ingredients used in these types of alcohol and the production location alter the flavor based on climate and access to specific fruits or nuts.
Champagne stands out mainly compared to other sparkling wines because of where it’s made— within 100 miles of Champagne, France. This region of France is the only place in the world that creates authentic Champagne, as the wet and cool climate is ideal for the grapes used.
Generally, winemakers use pinot noir, pinot meunier, or chardonnay grapes to craft champagne, which helps create that distinct flavor. Using these specific grapes also brings hints of sweetness to well-known beverages. Grapes such as pinot meunier bring floral and citrus flavors to the drink.
The Dryness Levels
Before buying champagne for your wedding, you should understand the champagne levels of dryness. Brut natureis as dry as it can be because there is no sugar in it. Doux champagne is on the complete opposite end of the dryness scale, as it’s incredibly sweet and has over 50 grams of sugar for every liter of alcohol.
Unlike champagne, sparkling wines come from various places across the globe and have the same fizzy sensation as champagne but sell at a fraction of the price. Some of the most common options for weddings include:
- Chandon from California, USA
- Naveran Cava from Northeast Spain
- Prosecco DOC from Northeast Italy
- Paleokerisio from Ioannina, Greece
All these wines have slightly different flavors because, unlike champagne, they don’t have that specific grape blend. Options such as Naveran Cava have hints of roasted almonds, apple, and yeast, while Paleokerisio tastes like apple and peach, with other tangy flavor notes.
How It’s Made
The way wineries create champagne versus sparkling wine also differs because there are strict guidelines for making champagne. Likewise, champagne goes through a longer aging process than sparkling wine.
Making champagne is far more labor intensive than sparkling wine because workers must pick and ferment the grapes and then add other ingredients, including sugar and yeast. From here, the winery workers will bottle the beverage and allow it to age for at least 15 months to 3 years if it’s not vintage. However, if it is a vintage bottle, most age it for 10 to 15 years.
After months or years of aging, workers will flip the bottles upside down and remove the crock to disgorge the wine by removing dead yeast cells. This is also when they pressurize the liquid to create that fizzy sensation. Finally, producers will mix in sugar, then rebottle and label the champagne.
Creating Sparkling Wine
Most wineries use a much simpler process to produce sparkling wine. While they still need to pick the grapes and mix essential ingredients, they’ll add all this to a tank and chill it to prevent fermentation. After giving it time to age, they filter, pressurize, and bottle it. Most producers age nonvintage sparkling wine for 18 months and vintage for around 7 years.
If you have a tight budget to work with, then champagne may not be the ideal option. Champagne has a higher price point than sparkling wine because it comes from France and takes years to produce. However, this doesn’t mean all sparkling wine comes at a low price, though it is more affordable than champagne.
For a wedding with 100 people, most experts advise having 15 bottles of champagne, and high-end options can cost close to $40 each. This means a final cost of close to $600 for champagne.
Alternatively, sparkling wine is very affordable, and prices vary depending on the type and brand you purchase. Options such as Prosecco DOC usually cost between $11 to $15 per bottle.
At a 100-person wedding with 15 bottles, this brings you to $165 to $225, which saves you several hundred dollars when compared to champagne.
How To Choose Which You Serve
Knowing the main differences between champagne and sparkling wine helps you decide which to serve on your big day. As you choose, the most important things to consider are your overall wedding budget and what foods you’ll offer with this alcohol.
Consider Your Budget
No matter how big or small your budget is, you’ll need to decide how you’ll allocate funds. Determine how much you’ll spend on alcohol, including cocktail hour, the toast, the main course, and an open vs. cash bar. From here, break down how much you’ll spend on each category.
Open bars are the most common at weddings and generally make guests happiest, but it comes at a higher price point for you. If you want an open bar and serve fine wine with dinner, champagne may not be ideal at $40 per bottle. Talk with your partner about how much you must spend, and which wedding aspects are prioritized.
Everyday Bride Tip
You should also consider the size of your guest list. Alcohol at a wedding with 100+ people will cost far more than one for 50 people. If you have a micro wedding, you may be able to splurge more on the alcohol served.
Decide on Food Pairings
Typically speaking, champagne or sparkling wine debut at cocktail hour and/or the main toast. Most couples do not serve this as the main wine for guests to enjoy alongside dinner, as that’s usually reserved for non-sparkling white or red wine.
Champagne & Food Pairings
As you decide on a menu for cocktail hour, serve the right foods alongside your champagne to satisfy your guests’ palates. Some common options include:
- Stuffed mushrooms
All these food options are easy for guests to eat as they mingle. Serving complementing choices appeals to the tastebuds and can enhance certain flavors in the food or champagne.
Sparkling Wine & Food Pairings
Pairing cuisine with sparkling wine can be trickier because there are so many flavor options for wine. Like champagne, many sparkling wines pair with seafood, cheeses, and salty options. However, each wine has ideal pairings with different foods based on the fruit or nutty flavors of the specific sparkling wine.
If you don’t know which sparkling wine to serve on your big day, go tasting at a winery. Here, you can try all sorts of budget-friendly champagne alternatives to offer at the wedding. You can also discuss which foods pair best with each sparkling wine and compare it to the vendor’s options.
It’s Your Day
Remember that this is your day, and you make the rules just like you will with any other aspect of the wedding. Friends and family may tell your partner and you that champagne is best or try convincing you that sparkling wine is more practical.
This is your wedding, and how you allocate your budget is a personal decision. If you can’t picture tying the knot without an authentic glass of champagne, don’t sacrifice it. Give yourself time to decide which wine you’ll serve so you can plan the perfect wedding. Cheers!