Some appellations matter a great deal and provide the reassurance that what you’re drinking is what you wanted. While appellations generally refer to wine, let’s look at it more broadly, including spirits. A Scotch from the US, for example, wouldn’t cut it, nor would Bourbon from Scotland. Different ingredients, recipes and distillation processes. Different origins.
What about cognac vs. brandy? Simple — all cognac is brandy. But, not all brandy is cognac. Brandy can only be labeled as cognac if it is produced in the designated growing areas in the Charentes region of France. To me, the cognac appellation means that the product has heritage, provenance and a unique production process behind it.
Okay, how about Tequila? All Tequilas are Mezcals, but not all Mezcals are Tequilas. Tequila must be made from at least 51% Blue Agave and come from the tequila region of Mexico. Anything less, or outside of the tequila region is known as a Mezcal.
Which brings me to Champagne vs. sparkling wine.
The champagne people, in an effort to recapture lost ground to such sparkling wine products as Prosecco, Cava, Moscato, Sekt and of course, California Sparkling Wine, have run an ad letting consumers know that only Champagne comes from France. Leaving aside the silliness of the ad’s execution, I believe they simply don’t get the consumer’s interest in bubbly wine regardless of the appellation.
They have reason to be concerned. Sparkling wine as a category outsells Champagne by more than 10 to 1, and has grown much faster over the last five years.
I’m a Prosecco fan. It’s bubbly, dry, pleasant tasting and fun. Is it a replacement for Champagne? Sometimes, but I’m also a Moët & Chandon fan. For me, the difference is mood, occasion and situation. While I might serve Prosecco at a party, only Champagne would meet the drink needs of a wedding. A sparkling wine would be great at a picnic but only Moët Vintage Champagne would be right for celebrating opening night for one of my plays (sigh, if only).
If the Champagne people want me to drink more of their bubbly and less Italian or California sparkling wine, they need to understand consumer needs and wants and align their product offerings accordingly.
After all, I’m not drinking ‘imitation’ Champagne; I’m drinking real Prosecco.