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You are correct in saying that true Champagne can only come from that region in France. Asti Spumante is a wine from Piedmont, Italy and is normally made with the muscat grape. The word Spumante means that it is a "fully sparkling" wine, as opposed to a "frizzante" wine which is only slightly bubbly. The Champagnes from France are made with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier grapes. You might also see wines such as Prosecco (from Italy), Cava (from Spain)and a variety of other names, from other countries. These are made from a variety of different grapes, by a couple of different methods. Some of these can be very good alternatives if you don't want to shell out the $$ for "true" champagne. Enjoy!
Mady - welcome to the boards.

Sparkling wine is a generic term for wines that ermmm... sparkle. Fizzy stuff, like soda but wine, and most it fits that description perfectly.

Yes, Champagne only comes from the Champagne region of France. There are other sparkling wines that come from France like Cremant.

Spumante as RWRS said is sparkling from Italy.There is also Frizzante that is referred to as semi-sparkling, sort of fizzy but not fizzy enough.

Cava is from Spain and should be used in place of Champagne as often as possible, here's why:

Cheap Champagne - oxymoron but the cheapest is $15
Cheap Cava - $5

Expensive Champagne - how much have you got?
Expensive Cava - oxymoron.

It's the cheap bit that counts. If you're drinking cheap fizz the Cava is as good as anything but it is cheaper. Decant into Mumm bottles if you must.

Hope this helps.
I've had Huet's and other Loire sparklers and find them an excellent alternative to overpriced Champagne. I'm also a big fan of sparklers from Rolet in Jura. IMHO, once you weed out the junk, sparkling wines can provide plenty of satisfaction and they are very food friendly, more so than Champagne even. Smile In terms of finesse and overall complexity, a good Champagne cannot be beat though. Don't even try.
When you're buying bubbly, it's also handy to know the different styles and types.

Since most bubblies are blends, a specific varietal or vineyard name rarely appears on a the label. That said, there are a number of clues on the label that can give you some info about the wine:

Non-vintage blends wines from several different vintages. The goal is consistency from year to year. Each producer has its own consistent house style, so it's fun to try a few side-by-side and compare. NV accounts for the largest portion of bubbly production.

Vintage wines use grapes grown mostly from a single year. Since these wines reflect the weather conditions of the specific vintage, character and quality can vary.

Blanc de blancs, meaning "white of whites," uses only Chardonnay grapes and can be vintage or non-vintage. These wines are generally lighter-bodied, with more citrus flavors.

Blanc de noirs, or "white of blacks," uses only the red-skinned Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier varieties and can be vintage or non-vintage. Although the wines are white, they still reflect the grape varieties used; they are usually fuller-bodied, with strawberry and sometimes cherry flavors.
Rosé relies on skin contact with red grapes and/or the addition of a touch of red wine to add a distinct tinge of color. It usually shows more body and more Pinot Noir flavors than blanc de noirs.

Crisp and refreshing, bubblies are great in heat waves like we're experiencing in nyc -- and they go great with food too. I guess I know what I'll be ordering when I meet a girlfriend after work tonight.
There are also difference during the conception of these wines.

For champagne for example, you have a lot of reglementations for the alcoolic degree of the juces, for the "acidity" of the wines, and after that a lot of reglementations concerning the press and vinification of the wine.
In this french region, all the wines are tasted to be commercialized. It's a test for all the champagnes, to obtain a better quality.
In champagne the grape harvest are made only by hand, to select the quality and let the bad grapes.
The press of the juces is also really important, you dont have to obtain a spicy taste in the juces, that's why champagne producters all have some press that make a fine work to obtain only the juice and not the "raffle".

Another difference for these wines is also situated in the bubbles.
Some of these wines have bubble only by adding some carbonic gaz (excuse me i'm not sure of this therm, my english isn't good enough ...), and in other situation like champagne, it's a real work of fermentation of the wines, in the bottle.

Wish i did help you, and you understood all i said Smile

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