Bubbly Buying Guide: The Difference Between Champagne, Cava, and Prosecco

Find the perfect type of sparkler to sip on for any occasion, even if it’s just chilling on your couch.
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Champagne

When you think of bubbles, Champagne is probably what comes to mind. It’s also the spendiest of the fizzy bunch: Bottles start around $30 and go up (and up and up). Strict production rules are behind the price tag: The grapes must be from the Champagne region of France and undergo two fermentation periods in the bottle. Then the wine has to age in the bottle for at least 15 months for nonvintage Champagne and at least three years for vintage. 

Buy: Jean Vesselle Brut Réserve (about $40) is a steal for the quality. And the crisp, lemony Guy Larmandier Cramant Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs (about $61) is a great special-occasion bottle, best shared among friends.

Cava

If you want bubbles on more of a beer budget, this Spanish drink uses the same wine-making method as the French stuff. But because it’s less well-known and the climate in Spain makes it cheaper to grow grapes, it’s a sliver of the price.

Buy: Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut (about $10) is great for serving a crowd. The palest possible pink with a hint of cranberry and a super-dry finish, Raventós i Blanc de Nit Rosé 2016 (about $26) is worthy of your fanciest stemware.

Prosecco

This fruity Italian sparkler doesn’t mind if you drink it out of a plastic cup and end up with a lampshade on your head. Like Champagne, Prosecco can come from only a certain region in Europe (in this case, northeastern Italy). It’s made using the Charmat (or Italian) fermentation method, which is speedier but yields bubbles that will go flat more quickly. So drink up!

Buy: Zardetto DOC Brut NV (about $17) pairs well with cookies (and Netflix) and is perfect to use in sparkling punches. Sorelle Bronca Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG Extra Dry (about $22) has a delicious note of spiced pear that you’ll want to savor.