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/News/What’s the difference between Prosecco, Champagne & Sparkling Wine?

What’s the difference between Prosecco, Champagne & Sparkling Wine?

When it comes to effervescent celebrations, nothing quite captures the essence of joy like a glass of bubbly. However, the world of sparkling wines is vast and diverse – and often just plain confusing. In Australia we WRONGLY tend to talk about anything with bubbles as champagne! But there is a vast ocean of bubbly out there and only the stuff that is made in one particular area of France can legally be called Champagne.

The most notable types of bubbly we consume here in Australia are Prosecco, Champagne, and just “sparkling wine”, and each bring its own unique character to the palate.

With the festive season in full swing we though it was high time to ensure everyone was armed with the knowledge of what it is that distinguish these sparkling treasures from each other!

Prosecco: Italian Effervescence

Let’s begin our voyage in the rolling hills of Veneto, Italy, where Prosecco reigns as the epitome of Italian effervescence. Crafted primarily from the Glera grape, Prosecco offers a fresh and fruity profile that reflects the sun-drenched landscapes of its origin.

One key feature of Prosecco is its production method. Unlike the traditional method used in Champagne, Prosecco undergoes a more economical and time-efficient tank method, also known as the Charmat method. This involves conducting the secondary fermentation in large stainless steel tanks, resulting in a wine that captures the crispness of the fruit and a distinctive frothy quality.

Prosecco’s taste profile often leans towards green apple, pear, and floral notes, creating a refreshing and approachable experience. It is typically labeled as Extra Dry or Brut, with varying levels of sweetness to cater to different preferences.

Champagne: Elegance from the French Terroir

Moving across the border to the hallowed vineyards of Champagne, France, we encounter a wine synonymous with luxury and celebration. Champagne, crafted from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier grapes, employs the traditional method of production, also known as méthode champenoise.

The méthode champenoise involves a secondary fermentation that takes place in the bottle, allowing the wine to develop complex flavours and delicate bubbles over an extended period. This intricate process contributes to Champagne’s refined and sophisticated character. And also to its price point! Champagne has to be cellared for a minimum of 18 months for non-vintages and 3 years for vintages before they are released.

Champagne is revered for its diverse styles, ranging from the crisp and citrusy Blanc de Blancs made exclusively from Chardonnay to the fuller-bodied and fruit-forward Blanc de Noirs crafted from Pinot Noir and/or Meunier. The dosage, a mixture of wine and sugar added before corking, further influences the sweetness level, ranging from the bone-dry Brut Nature or Zero Dosage to the slightly sweeter Demi-Sec.

Sparkling Wine: Global Expressions of Fizz

Beyond the boundaries of Italy and France, sparkling wine emerges as a global phenomenon, offering a kaleidoscope of flavours and styles. Unlike Prosecco and Champagne, the term “sparkling wine” is a broad umbrella encompassing a myriad of wines from diverse regions and grape varieties.

In Spain for example, the effervescent allure of Cava takes center stage. Crafted mainly from indigenous grape varieties such as Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel-lo, Cava undergoes the traditional method, delivering a delightful array of citrus, almond, and floral notes.

Here in Australia, too, we proudly boast a sparkling wine scene of note, with crisp and elegant expressions emerging from cool-climate regions like Tasmania and the Adelaide Hills. These wines, often made from classic Champagne varieties, showcase a lively acidity.

Key Differences in a Glass

While all three – Prosecco, Champagne, and sparkling wine – share the effervescent magic that makes any occasion sparkle, there are key differences that set them apart.

  1. Grapes and Terroir:
    • Prosecco: Primarily crafted from the Glera grape in the Veneto region of Italy.
    • Champagne: A blend of or singularly made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier from the Champagne region of France.
    • Sparkling Wine: Varies widely depending on the region and grape varieties used.
  2. Production Method:
    • Prosecco: Charmat method, involving secondary fermentation in tanks.
    • Champagne: Traditional method (méthode champenoise), involving secondary fermentation in the bottle.
    • Sparkling Wine: Can be produced using various methods, including traditional and tank methods.
  3. Flavour Profiles:
    • Prosecco: Fresh, fruity, with notes of green apple, pear, and florals.
    • Champagne: Diverse, ranging from citrusy and crisp to fuller-bodied and fruit-forward, with notes of toast and brioche.
    • Sparkling Wine: Varies widely, reflecting the regional characteristics and grape varieties used.
  4. Sweetness Levels:
    • Prosecco: Labeled as Extra Dry or Brut, with varying sweetness levels.
    • Champagne: Ranges from the bone-dry Brut Nature to the sweeter Demi-Sec.
    • Sparkling Wine: Depends on the winemaker’s choice, spanning the full spectrum.

The Global Language of Bubbles

In the end, whether it’s the lively pop of a Prosecco cork, the refined elegance of a vintage Champagne, or the diverse expressions found in sparkling wines worldwide, the language of bubbles transcends borders. Each sip tells a story of the grapes, the terroir, and the craftsmanship behind the bottle, making every effervescent moment a celebration in its own right.

Whatever you find yourself sipping this festive season, make sure you take some time to understand how bubbly is not a universal “style” of wine and has just as much breadth and depth of variation as anything “red” or “white”.


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