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Champagne is a first choice for New Year's parties, weddings or any special occasion.

But not just any bubbly is really Champagne. The Champagne district in France has given its name to one of the most coveted of wines.

The bubbly, sparkling wines that are grown in this area are allowed to use the name "Champagne" and no other sparkling wine can claim that prestigious designation. Cava, Sekt, Spumanti and others may be from the same grapes as Champagne, but unless they grow in the vineyards of Champagne, they cannot use the name.

Champagne fun facts

A girl's best friend?

• Legend has it that the now-famous French monk Dom Perignon (1638-1715) invented Champagne and immediately exclaimed, "Come quickly, I'm drinking stars!"

• Famous celebrity Champagne lovers have included Winston Churchill, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Marilyn Monroe and Alfred Hitchcock. (Marilyn Monroe was said to have once bathed in tub filled with 350 bottles worth of Champagne!)

• You'll know you are drinking a great Champagne by the size of the bubbles. The finer and thinner the bubbles are, the higher the quality.

• There's reason they call it "the bubbly". Champagne has three times more gas than beer.

• Champagne hangover? .The sugar in sweet Champagne is partially responsible. So next time try a brut or extra brut variety and it might save you a headache in the morning.

Buying Champagne

If you're just starting out, the best way to decide which Champagne to choose is simply by .... trying them! It's almost guaranteed that you'll have a wonderful time finding out what you like.

If you are still not sure, a rough guide to what you may prefer is to simply read the label. The most common varieties -- from sweetest to driest -- include demi-sec, sec, extra sec or extra dry, brut, and extra brut.

You may be initially impressed by the top names such as Mumm, Moët & Chandon, Roederer, Taittinger or any of the well known French Champagne house labels. But don't overlook the today's less expensive varieties of sparkling wine that may be just as good (or better) than real Champagne.

More about champagne around the Web:

Just up ahead, learn more about choosing the champagne that's right for your taste and your budget. Toast in the New Year, a new bride and groom, a new graduate or a new picnic spot with your favorite Champagne.

And, if you're wondering when it is appropriate to serve Champagne - take a clue from Napoleon and Churchill..."In success you deserve Champagne and in defeat, you need it!"

also see feature stories --> Festive Meals Call For Champagne

The Champagne Growers of France
- All you need to know about Champagne from the vines through the last tasting note is covered here including a look at champagne history, the terroir, along with practical tips on chilling and serving the bubbly.

The Webtender - Champagne Cocktails - If you are searching for drinks that use Champagne as an ingredient .. .this page is what you are looking for. With 88 different recipes that use Champagne, you should find the one that you have in mind, along with several others to experiment with.

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