Learn everything about sparkling wine, including the difference between dry and brut champagne, the best cheap champagne, and how to pop a cork
The only thing that says New Year's Eve more than sparkles and a midnight kiss? Champagne. Popping that cork and toasting with bubbly is a time-honored tradition—one we know you wouldn't dare break, especially considering the sparkly stuff can be healthier and cheaper than you may think! Check out these nine facts you may not have known about champagne, including the healthiest varieties and the best bottles to buy for under $20.
While “champagne” is often used for marketing purposes, authentic champagne only comes from the namesake region of France. Grapes from outside Champagne are not legally allowed to use the title, hence “sparkling wine.”
Champagne may be exclusive to France, but other countries have comparable kinds: Prosecco is Italy’s sparkling wine and though it’s made from different grapes and therefore tastes different (often described as with hints of green apple, citrus, and flowers), it still has the fizzy feeling of champagne. Another often overlooked cousin? Cava, which is a Spanish sparkling wine more comparable to prosecco’s light and fruitier flavor, but is actually produced more like Champagne (meaning it is fermented twice, unlike prosecco).
Marilyn Monroe once bathed in a tub filled with over 350 bottles-worth of champagne. She might have been onto something: Don’t let the leftovers of one bottle go to waste. Try this recipe for turning leftover sparkly into a New Year’s Day champagne soak.
Five ounces of champagne is roughly 90 calories, while red wine clocks in at 125 for the same amount. Plus, bubbly is generally served in a smaller amount (flutes typically hold 6 ounces at a time), so you’re drinking at a more responsible pace. (Find out how your other favorite drinks match up with Diet Strategies: Which Drink Has Fewer Calories?)
Research shows champagne is good for your heart and circulation and keeps your brain sharp, thanks to the same antioxidants that make red and white wine so good for your health. Just like with other alcohol, though, the benefits are only seen in moderate drinking, so stick to one or two glasses a night (although we’ll certainly look the other way for New Year’s Eve).
There is a long, complicated process to making champagne, but one part in particular is key to the final taste: Before being corked, the wine is topped off with sugar, and the amount added at this stage dictates how sweet it’ll be once you pop the cork. The sugary notes are explained on the scale of Extra Brut (the driest and least sweet), Brut, Extra Dry (medium dry), Sec, to Demi Sec (super sweet). If you like the taste of both, pick based on health: The extra sugar adds up to extra calories, which means a glass of Demi Sec packs 30 more calories than a glass of extra Brut.
Champagne gets a bad day-after rap—mostly from college nights where you drank too much Andre and woke up feeling worse than most other Sunday mornings. But the pain is actually in the variety you choose: The hangover partially comes from the sugar, so choosing less sweet versions—that is Extra Brut or Brut—can save your morning. (Sticking to the sweet stuff? Turn your kitchen into a pharmacy with 5 Healthy Recipes for Hangover Cures.)
True champagne is indeed expensive—and just like good wine, it’s often worth the money. But if you just want to feel festive on New Year’s instead of broke, you can pop a cork for under $20. The easiest way? Opt for something other than authentic champagne—prosecco, cava, or a non-French sparkling wine are all still delicious but cheaper because they don’t come with the iconic name. Some great brands for under $20? Roederer Estate Brut ($20; wine.com), Scharffenberger Brut Excellence ($17; wine.com), Zardetto Prosecco ($13; wine.com), La Marca Prosecco ($15; wine.com), Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Cava ($9; wine.com), and Freixenet Sparkling Cordon Negro Brut Cava ($10; wine.com).
Nothing says celebratation quite like the distinct “pop.” But despite how fun it looks to spray bubbly everywhere, we recommend not shaking before you open so half the bottle isn’t wasted in the overflow. Need more instruction? Check out How to Open Champagne Like a Pro.