The size of bubble determines the quality of a sparkling wine or Champagne.

W

hen we were kids, we'd spend New Year's Eve sipping sparkling grape juice or sparkling (non-alcoholic) cider from plastic champagne flutes. Once we got older, though, out came the real stuff. Now that we shop for the stuff on a more regular basis, we've noticed that some bottles get the prized "Champagne" label, while others get relegated to "sparkling wine" status. Is there really a difference?

At its simplest, the difference between Champagne and sparkling wine is that one is made in Champagne region in France, and the other isn't. We'll let you guess which is which.

bubbly Pop open some Champagne...or bubbly...or sparkling wine. Whatever.

That's only the case in Europe, though, where it's a law that non-Champagne made sparkling wine must be called something else. Here in America, vineyard owners felt perfectly content calling their sparkling white wines "Champagne," and did so for decades. They don't now, though, since many producers think that American-made wine is superior to real Champagne-made Champagne.

So what determines the quality of a Champagne or sparkling wine? Interestingly enough, the bubbles are what jack up the price—more specifically, the size of the bubbles. Smaller bubbles mean more total bubbles in the bottle, and since the bubbles are what release the wine's flavor, more bubbles means more flavorful wine. Got that?

As for what variations of Champagne/sparkling wine there are out there, they're traditionally measured by how much sugar is in the wine—extra brut, brut, extra dry, and demi-sec. To throw you off even further, brut means dry, but extra brut means extra EXTRA dry. Extra dry, meanwhile, means "middle of the road dry," according to About.com.

If all of this is confusing you more, you're not alone. If you still need help picking out a bottle of bubbly in the coming weeks, most liquor and wine store clerks can point you in the right direction. As for our advice? Stay away from Andre (unless you're underage freshly 21, in which case, go for it!) or anything pink.