It鈥檚 officially holiday party-hosting season, which means you鈥檝e got your Christmas decoration ideas on lock, you鈥檝e found the perfect ugly holiday statement sweater and logged serious hours in the kitchen with some insanely easy Christmas cookie recipes. The only thing left to do before the bash is buy a few bottles of bubbly 鈥 but where to start? If you鈥檙e like us, you could use some pointers to tell the difference between prosecco and cava (we can鈥檛 even begin to explain cr茅mant!). Luckily, RM Champagne Salon beverage director Jay Schuster gave us the skinny, so we can stay sparkling-wine woke all season long. Cheers!

Enthusiastic friends toasting champagne glasses at Christmas dinner


1. Region: The Champagne region of France (also known as the sparkling wine鈥檚 appellation). It鈥檚 about 80 miles northeast of Paris 鈥 just outside the city of Reims. In many countries, it鈥檚 illegal to call something Champagne unless it鈥檚 produced in this region under specific rules.

2. Grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. A 鈥渂lanc de blanc鈥 is 100-percent Chardonnay, while a ros茅 Champagne is a blend of red and white grapes (makes sense!).

3. Production Method: The Champagne production method involves two fermentation steps, the second of which occurs inside the bottle. Champagne must be aged for at least 15 months, while a vintage Champagne requires 36 months of aging time. Additionally, the 鈥済rapes must be hand harvested,鈥 Jay explains.

4. Taste Profile: Champagne has the most robust and complete taste profile of any sparkling wine type, which is why it鈥檚 so superior, Jay says. 鈥淭here鈥檚 usually fruit-forward flavors up front, crisp and clean through the middle with a supple finish.鈥 A brut Champagne has 鈥渦nder 12 grams of sugar,鈥 Jay says, which gives it its dry quality.

5. Perfect Time to Pop a Bottle: A midnight toast, engagement celebration or, in Jay鈥檚 case recently, passing your driving test (he鈥檚 a lifelong city dweller!). Jay says Champagne is definitely a 鈥渟pecial occasion wine,鈥 even though, he admits, it鈥檚 delicious enough to want to drink every day.


1. Region: Unlike Champagne, cr茅mant can be made with grapes from different parts of France. The Loire Valley and Alsace are two popular regions for cr茅mant, though there are seven appellations throughout the country that are legally allowed to produce the sparkling wine.

2. Grapes: Commonly, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc or Riesling.

3. Production Method: Cr茅mant is still beholden to the classic Champagne production method, so 鈥渢he quality is almost the same,鈥 Jay explains, though it鈥檚 technically called the 鈥渢raditional method鈥 since only Champagne can be made in, well, Champagne.

4. Taste Profile: Creamier and less sparkly than Champagne. Each appellation has its own distinct characteristics, Jay says, so 鈥渋f you like your wine jammier, you can try a cr茅mant from southern France.鈥

5. Perfect Time to Pop a Bottle: 鈥淐remant is a great complement to raw oysters,鈥 Jay says. He also enjoys drinking it with a full meal 鈥渂ecause it鈥檚 complex enough鈥 to stand up to food. While it鈥檚 been around just as long as the rest of the sparkling heavy hitters, Jay says it鈥檚 currently enjoying a serious revival among the stylish set. So, if you鈥檙e hosting a particularly posh bash, cr茅mant is an awesome choice.


Three cute girlfriends celebrating with champagne at good party.

1. Region: It鈥檚 most often produced in the Pened猫s region near Barcelona, or on the Ebro River Valley near Rioja.

2. Grapes: Macabeo, Parellada and Xarello, which are all native to Spain.

3. Production Method: 鈥淐ava is almost always produced with the Champagne [or traditional] method,鈥 Jay explains, so you鈥檙e 鈥済etting a great value,鈥 since cava is significantly cheaper than Champagne.

4. Taste Profile: Light, crisp and refreshing 鈥 often with green apple and pear flavors up front 鈥 and 鈥渙n the drier side.鈥 Of the three non-Champagne sparkling wine varieties we鈥檝e talked about, cava most closely resembles Champagne in its taste and dryness, which makes it a stunning alternative to its higher-priced French friend.

5. Perfect Time to Pop a Bottle: Jay calls cava a 鈥減atio pounder,鈥 meaning it鈥檚 a great option when you know you鈥檒l be sipping some bubbly all night long.


1. Region: The Veneto region of northern Italy.

2. Grapes: Prosecco is made from a single grape: Glera.

3. Production Method: It鈥檚 called the 鈥淐harmat method,鈥 Jay says, with the biggest difference between it and the traditional method being that the second fermentation happens in a stainless steel tank rather than inside the bottle.

4. Taste Profile: Because of its time spent in stainless steel, prosecco has a less complex flavor than its three sparkling siblings, Jay explains. 鈥淚t鈥檚 not as supple and not as yeast-y.鈥 Instead, it鈥檚 鈥渓ight and sweet,鈥 and often has apple, lemon rind, tropical fruit and floral flavors.

5. Perfect Time to Pop a Bottle: Since prosecco tends toward the sweeter side, Jay recommends subbing a bottle for dessert when you鈥檙e just too full for tiramisu but still want a treat. He also prefers using it for 鈥渂lending鈥 鈥 so go for prosecco when you鈥檙e making mimosas or topping off cocktails.

When you鈥檙e entertaining, it really doesn鈥檛 matter which kind of sparkling you serve, Jay says, as long as 鈥渆veryone has a glass of bubbly in their hand.鈥 He says 鈥 and so do we 鈥 that it 鈥渏ust makes everyone feel more festive鈥 and is an easy way to add majorly merry ambiance to any holiday gathering.

What鈥檚 your favorite kind of sparkling wine? Tweet us @BritandCo and let us know!

(Photos via Getty)