Let’s Talk Bubbly: Champagne vs. Prosecco

champYou’ve just poured two flutes of bubbly wine — one a Champagne, one a Prosecco — and placed them next to each other on a table.

They look pretty much the same, with streams of tiny bubbles cascading toward the tops of the glasses.

They probably have similar aromas, and depending on the grapes used to make the wines, may even taste similar.

So what is the main difference between Champagne and Prosecco? There actually are several points of differentiation. Memorize a few, and impress friends and family at your next party…

  1. Champagne is from France, while Prosecco is from Italy.

2.  Even more specifically, Champagne may be made only in the Champagne appellation of France. A sparkling wine made in France, but not in Champagne, is called a Cremant.

3.  In making Champagne, only certain grape varieties are allowed. With Prosecco, Glera is the primary grape used, but others are allowed.

4. There are several quality designations of Champagne. A “Grand Cru,” for instance, requires that the grapes be grown only in and around designated communities within the Champagne appellation, and allows only Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to be used in the cuvees.

And we’ve saved perhaps the greatest difference for last…

5. Champagne and Prosecco are made in entirely different ways. In Champagne, the    méthode traditionnelle (a.k.a. the méthode champenoise) is utilized, which involves a second fermentation in the bottle. Most Prosecco is made using the Charmat method, in which the second fermentation takes place in a large tank.

It should be noted that the Charmat method is much less time consuming and, thus, much less expensive. That’s one of the reasons Prosecco generally costs less than Champagne. But that lower cost should not be equated with lower quality. There are many world-class Processos — as well as fine sparkling wines from Spain, South Africa and elsewhere — being made today to complement the fine Champagnes of France.

* Speaking of price, we’ll take a look at that factor in the wine-buying process in our next blog.

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Posted in Wine in the Glass
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