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What’s the difference between Champagne and Prosecco?

Champagne and Prosecco, two of the most popular sparkling wines on the planet. But, what’s the difference between these two types of wine?

Let’s start by taking a look at the regions where these wines come from. As their names suggest, Prosecco is produced in the region of Prosecco in the North East of Italy. Whereas, Champagne comes from the North East of France in the region of Champagne. Because of this, the terroir contributes partly to the difference in wine. Terroir is a French term that describes the environmental factors affecting a crop (the grapes), such as soil type and climate etc. However, there are a myriad of factors at play when it comes to differentiating these two sparkling classics.

The Production Process of Champagne and Prosecco

Prosecco is undoubtably cheaper than Champagne. The main reason Champagne costs more comes down to the production process, specifically during fermentation.

How is Champagne made?

Champagne’s production process is referred to as Méthode Traditionnelle, which in English means classic method. The fermentation process is a key factor in how Champagne and Prosecco differ. With Champagne going through a much more time consuming and labour intensive process.

Firstly grapes are added and fermented in to still wine. Afterwards, yeast and sugar are added to the cuvée (the tank). The wine is then bottled and so the second fermentation stage begins. As time passes in the bottles, trapped CO2 gas carbonates the liquid which provides each bottle with the signature sparkle.

Following this, the wine is left in each bottle for at least 15 months alongside dead yeast cells, which add to the champagne’s complexity. Towards the end of their long resting period, the bottles must be moved and rotated to loosen the sediment, this is a process known as riddling. Riddling involves the gradual tilting of each bottle with the neck-down whilst rotating clockwise and anti-clockwise. As the angle of tilt increases, gravity draws any residual sediment to the neck before it’s removed via disgorgement.

Champagne Shortage

How is Prosecco made?

Prosecco is made using the ‘Charmat’ method. The name Charmat, pays homage to the individual who fine tuned the method in 1907, Eugène Charmat.  Similarly to the initial stage of Champagne, yeast and sugar are added to the base wine. Afterwards, the wine is then left to ferment in stainless steel tankers (or cuvées).

Prosecco is fermented just in a stainless steel tank (a cuvée)

As the yeast consumes the sugar and ferments it releases CO2 which causes the tank to pressurise. Since the pressure has nowhere to go, it carbonates the wine. Which is where Prosecco gets its fizz from.

The time the wine spends in the tank can vary and it affects the finished product. For example, longer fermentation preserves the aromas and gives finer and more durable bubbles. This of course will add to the cost, so you can immediately understand why there are price differences when buying Prosecco.

Due to the efficiency in production, Prosecco is less expensive to make, and less expensive to purchase than champagne. The total time to produce a Prosecco can vary significantly and ranges between three to fifteen months.

The Grapes

Most Champagne is produced using three varieties of grape. The main grapes used for Champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the only two red grapes in the region. The three varieties account for about 99% of the region’s plantings. 

Most Prosecco comes from the Glera grape. Up until 2009 this grape was known as Prosecco, but in a bid to protect the name Prosecco the grape was renamed Glera.

The grapes used in each sparkling wine are different.

How do Champagne and Prosecco’s flavour differ?

Champagne and Prosecco have very different taste profiles. The primary flavours in Champagne are citrus, white peach and cherry, almond and toast. Prosecco’s primary flavours are green apple, honeydew, honeysuckle, pear and fresh cream.

Because Champagne ages longer, the flavour often resembles cheese rinds. In finer bottles, it will seem like toast or biscuits. The high-pressure aging process creates fine and persistent bubbles. Vintage Champagnes typically have flavours of almond, orange-zest and white cherry.

Prosecco’s taste is fruitier and flowery because of the grapes used to make it. The ageing process takes place in large tanks, creating less pressure that results in lighter, spritzy bubbles that are not as persistent as the ones in Champagne. Fine bottles of Prosecco usually have notes of tropical fruit, hazelnut, vanilla, or banana cream.

We hope this has helped you to understand the differences and you’ve learnt something new whilst reading. If you’ve got a thirst for something sparkling this festive season Club Vino have you covered with our sparkling collection, 6 quality bottles handpicked by our Sommelier, Marco. Cheers!

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