Champagne vs. Sparkling wine

As someone who is VERY new to the world of sparkling wine, I was curious about a couple of things:
For the average NV sparkler, how much of a premium are you paying for a true champagne compared to a sparkling wine from another region?
I know this question casts a wide net, but at two or three times the price, I’m wondering if true champagne is worth the premium for a newbie.
I searched and didn’t really find a thread that addressed my question. If there is one, please let me know.

Most sparkling wine is clearly not Champagne. Very few sparkling wines approach lower end Champagnes in character. You can find plenty of quality sparkling wines though for a quarter to a half of what you would pay for decent Champagnes.

Its really difficult to answer “if true champagne is worth the premium for a newbie”. That is a personal question just like asking is any wine worth the premium, newbie or experienced wine geek. There is no substitute for good Champagne to me. There is very good sparkling wine though. I just consider them different animals.

Easy: there is NO subsitute for a good Champagne …

In France - and sometimes here in Austria, too - you can buy a simple but decent Champagne in a supermarket for around 20 € (18.99 to 24.99) … this is nothing I would serve for an anniversary … but for an everyday apertive or luncheon wine it´s absolutely ok …

The very best Austrian and German sparkling wines are also from 12/15 up to 25 € and even more … the same applies to the fine Cavas - but as good as both can be … with their freshness and attractive fruit - for my taste they are lacking the creamyness and toasty depth a decent Champagne can offer …

So: the cheapest Champagnes (sometimes in the 11.90 to 15-€ range …) are crap.
But in the next category values can be found … (be sure to taste before buying) …

… and from 25 to 40 € you can find a lot of very good Champagnes which are satisfying …
OK - if you want something really great … thats going to be really expensive …

Of course I´m writing about European prices … I´ve no idea about the US-market …

BTW: I´m preferring my Champagnes with a certain bottle age … even the NVs with some 2- to 5 years …

+1 on that

I won’t call myself a newbie, but I have not allocated huge bucks to my pursuit of high end Champagne, as I’ve been so very happy with many of the big reputable producers of Champagne. This year especially, with a watchful eye…and over the holidays in particular…here in the Bay Area you’ve been able to pick up great NV deals for $30 and under. $40 used to be my cutoff for Champagne, since the tough times started that number is closer to $30. And I got some amazing deals over the holidays ($25 NV Laurent Perrier was the bomb). And there was $22.99 Piper Heidsieck being blown out at Costco for New Years. But with careful shopping, you can get great Champagne in the $30 range…bottles like Laurent Perrier, Tattinger, Nicolas Feuillatte.

In the California Sparkling category, tremendous value for Gloria Ferrer (particularly Blanc de Noirs) and Domaine Carneros in the $15 range that drink well above their price point.

Not to mention some of the recent deals on Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc for $25-$30…the calif sparker that comes closest in drinking enjoyment to Champagne for me.

No love here for most Cava other than a strict bulk party purchase…

Are these Champagnes worth the double price? Hell, I don’t know, I like both. I don’t think you’re paying 3x under any circumstances. But there is nothing like Champagne, and they are definitely better than the $15 calif sparklers. But I’m super happy with a $15 bottle of Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs. I love it all. Would I take a $25 or $30 bottle of Laurent Perrier over the Ferrer? Every day.

I think you’ll really be missing out if you get too hung up on the price premium

I find doing a side by side of Cali sparklers w/ NV Frenchies, allowing your eyes, nose and taste to complement the bizziliions of opinions.

A potential line-up:

  • Schramsberg BdB. Rose, J for upscale
  • Maybe Iron Horse, Wedding Cuvee, Brut
  • Maybe Scharfefenberger (the chocolate peeps), Gloria Ferrer etc…
    just pick 2-3 @ ~ $15-25

Domestics houses w/ French names:

  • Taittinger (Domain Carneros): Ultra Brut (no dose), Brut, La Reve (upscale)
  • Piper Sonoma
  • Mumms
  • Roederer Anderson Valley

Then get the Taitt NV, Hiedsick, Mumm Cordon Rouge, Roederer Estate
all ~ $30-49.

taste with some starters, dinner, and see what you/your friends think.
You could pull the whole thing off with 5-6 flts, < 150-200.00 or just go buy a Krug NV, 200x Dom. (but still cheaper than a Cristal, or Salon!)

Personally I like Shrams, Domain Carneros, Roederer Anderson QPR wise and find them quite enjoyable + accessible.

I’d echo the other responders here. The aromas are different, and Champagne provides much more texture and tastes more integrated on the palate. It’s an oversimplification, but it’s as though Sparkling wine is merely wine w/bubbles.

I enjoy both. So, when making the buying decision between the two, I just consider the audience. Admittedly, they are more $$, but there are several very nice Champagnes to choose from in the $29-35 range, so you don’t have to go whole hog.

My advise is very similar to Gene’s…taste, taste, taste… Side by side will give you a very good idea.

In my world, we (generally drink) Domaine Carneros or Roederer Estate (we used to at least) when we are just looking for a simple bubbly. Maybe with take out sushi, as an apertif, or whenever the mood strikes us. On special occasions or when we want something “better” or special its champagne. I would agree with those above when they say there is no real substitute.


I seem to like domestic sparklers more than most people on this board and drink them pretty often but they are very different than Champagne. American Sparklers seem to me more fruit-centered and refreshing while Champagne has more yearty and bread-like aromas. The flavors can be a bit spicier too (like chandied ginger). So like people have mentioned you cant really compare the two. They have different aromatic/flavor profiles. Im glad I have both to drink.

FWIW, people tend to ignore Korbel but their “Natural” branded vintage wines are really good for the price. They really bennifit from some air too.

Sorry - I´ve only tasted conciously one single sparkler from the US ever … can´t even remember from where or the name … and - well - it was kind of Chardonnay with bubbles … neither better no worse than what we have here in Austria …

So I can only argue about Champagne … pileon

I’m going to stake out a slightly different position here, and say that, no, for a newbie, Champagne is not worth the premium.

The reason I say this is because, as a newbie, you will get an absolutely thrilling education exploring the world of sparkling wine outside of Champagne, taste magnificent wines, and spend less per bottle doing it. It’s an exploration that will take you to growing regions around the globe.

For example, you can explore German and Austrian sekt with producers like Raumland and Bründlmayer; Italian bubblies from Trento and Franciacorta with producers like Ferrari and Cavalleri; sparkling wines from other French zones like the Loire; Limoux and Burgundy with producers like Clos de la Briderie, Antech and Parigot; and I’ll add that any USA lineup of sparklers is incomplete without Iron Horse.

And I’m just talking bottle fermented white sparklers, here; throw open the gates to the world of sparkling wines and the list gets crazy, full of sparkling reds and rosés from all types of varieties, from shiraz, to marzemino, to zwiegelt.

So that’s my viewpoint. You’ll learn a lot more about wine if you explore outside Champagne. Undoubtedly you’ll come back to Champagne, and want to explore the differences between areas like the Montagne de Riems and the Aube, but having experience of other sparkling wines will only deepen your appreciation of Champagne’s unique character.