Champagne and Prosecco: What’s the difference?

Glasses of sparkling wine

Though both may be great picks to elevate a celebration, there’s a lot to distinguish Champagne and Prosecco from each other. Geographical location, permitted grape varieties, production method and flavour profile all make a difference in understanding these two wine styles.

But let’s start with the similarities. Both Champagne and Prosecco are permitted to make rosé sparkling wines under the respective names; although for Prosecco, this was only approved in May 2020.

The two regions have also been recognised by UNESCO as World Heritage sites for their viticultural heritage. The hillsides, houses and cellars of Champagne around Reims and Epernay in 2015 and the region of Le Colline del Prosecco di Conegliano e Valdobbiadene, including the DOCG winegrowing area, in 2019.

Champagne and Prosecco: Regions and grapes

Champagne comes from the Champagne region of France, located approximately 150km northeast of Paris. Prosecco comes from the northwestern Italian regions of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia.

Champagne can be a blend or single varietal wine. The most planted grape varieties are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, but another four are also permitted: Arbane, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris.

Prosecco is made principally from the Glera grape variety, which must make up at least 85% of the blend. The variety used to be called Prosecco but in 2009 its name was changed to Glera. At the same time, Prosecco was registered in EU law as the DOC, preventing other regions from using the name, although this caused a certain amount of controversy in other parts of the world.

Champagne and Prosecco: Production methods

Another key difference between these two wines is the way in which they are made, particularly in terms of how the bubbles are created. In both cases, the base (still) wine undergoes a second fermentation, creating the CO? which gives it its sparkle.

In Champagne, the méthode Champenoise or ‘traditional method’ is used to achieve this. The base wine is bottled along with yeast and sugars (liqueur de tirage), causing the second fermentation to happen in the bottle.

The wine is then left in contact with the dead yeast cells, so that it can mature. For a non-vintage Champagne the minimum time is 12 months (plus three further months ageing post disgorgement), whereas vintage Champagne must spend three years on its lees.

After this, the yeast needs to be removed. The riddling process rotates and tilts the bottle in small increments so that the sediment collects at the neck. The neck of the bottle is then frozen and the dead yeast cells released – a process called ‘disgorgement’. Liqueur d’expedition (a mixture of wine and sugar) is used to top up and balance the final wine, in a process known as dosage.

By contrast, in Prosecco the tank method is normally used for the second fermentation. Rather than being bottled, the base wine is placed in a pressure tank to which sugar and yeast are added. CO? is created and the wine is then filtered to remove the sediment before dosage and bottling.

Champagne and Prosecco: Flavour profiles

These two methods of production result in quite different flavour profiles for these wines.

The extended contact with the yeast in the traditional method means that Champagne generally has more autolytic flavours – bread, brioche and toast, as well as a rounder mouthfeel.

The yeast has less of an influence on Prosecco made with the tank method, because there is no extended lees contact. Most Prosecco is more about the fruit flavour profile of the Glera grape – associated with pear, apple, honeysuckle and floral notes.

However, some of the best Prosecco styles are made with the traditional method or undergo lees ageing, resulting in a more complex wine.

Related articles

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Prosecco: Panel tasting results

Ageing Grower Champagne: The peaks and pitfalls

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Source : https://www.decanter.com/learn/advice/whats-difference-between-champagne-and-prosecco-372451/