Wine 101: Better Know Your Sparkling Wines

Bellagio Las Vegas’ wine director Jason Smith gives us the bubbly breakdown

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Do you know your Grenache from your Gewurztraminer? Neither do we. So we’re talking to the pros—master sommeliers, wine shop owners, vintners—to get a better basic understanding of the vine, grape, and that delicious liquid in our glasses. Welcome to Wine 101. 

A quick way to reveal you’re a wine novice is to call all sparkling wines “Champagne.” The term Champagne, which refers specifically to wine grown and produced in Northeast France, has morphed into something of a catch-all term, much to the chagrin of oenophiles everywhere. It’s a bit like the difference between Oreos or Q-Tips, versus the store-brand varities. 

For a clear explanation of the differences between all things sparkly — Champagne, Prosecco, Cava and American sparkling — I turned to Master Sommelier and Bellagio Las Vegas’ director of wine Jason Smith. What better person to ask about bubbly than a man who works and lives in a city whose tourist trade is based on poppin’ bottles?  

Here he’s shared the best representation of each sparkling wine, as well as more afforable counterpart.

Prosecco (Italy): Nino Franco “Rustico” Prosecco – “For people just getting into sparkling wines this might be a good introduction. Prosecco, compared to champagne, is softer and rounder. It’s a little easier drinking. It’s not as serious. It’s something you can have super chilled down while you’re taking a dip in the pool.”

Budget friendly: Borgoluce, Ca del Bosco (which is actually Franciacorta)

Cava (Spain): Segura Viudas “Reserva” Brut – “Cava has got some similarities to Prosecco in that it’s a softer style, but it also has great fruit notes as well. It has both roundness of Prosecco and the mineral notes of great Champagne. It’s the best of both worlds.”

Budget friendly: Juve y Camps, Vilarnau

American Sparkling: Schramsberg “Blanc de Blancs” – This is a benchmark sparkling wine from Napa. It’s complex and more fruit-forward than what you’d expect comparing California wines to European sparkling wines. There is no sweetness at all, but rather a fruitiness in the wine.”

Budget friendly: Roederer Estate, Mumm DVX, Soter Rose

Champagne (France): Bollinger “Special Cuvee” NV – “This has very bright flavors, a lot of green apple notes. It really shows off what Champagne is known for, its minerality and complexity. But pure deliciousness at the same time.”

Budget friendly: Agrapart, Vilmart, Pol Roger, Billecart-Salmon

You can catch Jason Smith at Vegas Uncork’d when he’ll host wine events on May 9 and 10.

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