When it comes to wine tasting, a Master Sommelier will be able to tell the exact difference between different types of wine, their appearance, their brewery cycle, or when the wine was made. However, for us normal folk, it is much easier to identify our bubbly by straight up reading the label. Basically, Prosecco is from Italy and Champagne is from France.
There is a difference between Prosecco and Champagne. For non-sommeliers, both of them may seem like the same thing. Both have managed to achieve UNESCO Heritage, thereby giving it outstanding universal value and both are equally popular styles of sparkling wine that have garnered popularity. The fact remains that there are still differences between the two.
Difference Between Prosecco and Champagne
There are a few aspects of which Prosecco and Champagne can be differentiated.
The production method for Prosecco is called the Charmat Method. It is also known as the Italian method. Originating from Northeast Italy, Prosecco comes from a small region in the Veneto called Conegliano Valdobbiadene. The grapes used for producing it is called Glera, a type of green grape that has a thin skin that grows in the Veneto and Friuli regions of Northern Italy for centuries.
During the production of Prosecco, the grapes are transported to wineries once harvested, in order to extract the cloudy juice from the heart (also known as must) through specially designed machines. The extracted juice is then left inside a stainless steel tank to cool off at approximately 5 to 10 degrees celsius for 10 to 12 hours.
After that, the fermentation process is commenced through adding natural yeast to the liquid mixture, acting as a catalyst for natural sugars in the grapes to transform into alcohol. This is the first stage of fermentation, usually taking around 15 to 20 days while the tank is kept at a constant temperature of 18 to 20 degrees celsius.
Once this stage is complete, the base wine will be blended with different types of wine before submitting it to a second stage, called prise de mousse. This stage is crucial because the liquid will then be converted into sparkling wine, leading to the final step.
In the ending procedure, the Prosecco is bottled with pressure, and it normally takes 30 days during this process to maintain the integrity of the bubbles inside.
On the other hand, Champagne’s roots are from France, and it takes more effort and time to produce this type of wine. The prices for champagne are often higher when compared to Prosecco in part, due to the production process.
When harvesting ripe grapes, they should only be hand picked instead of using machines. This is to ensure only the finest grapes are used in the production of champagne. After the picking is done, they are then pressed carefully in order to maintain the juice’s colour.
During the first fermentation, the juice is placed in a tank, where acidic still wine that is completely fermented dry is created.
The next phase is known as The Assemblage, starting about 5 months after the harvest, where still white wine and reserve wines are mixed together to create the base wine for Champagne. Producers then proceed to the second fermentation.
After the yeast cells die, fermentation is complete, leading onwards to the aging process in which a yeasty, toasty character is formed. The Riddling is the next step where the dead yeast cells are removed through a 75 degree angle of the Champagne placement.
In the final process, the Champagne bottle is kept upside down with the neck frozen to create clear Champagne and final touches such as the adjustment of sweetness levels and corking the bottle tight are done to produce the perfect Champagne.
Tasting Profiles and Flavors
Prosecco is a light-bodied, vibrant, fresh, highly aromatic and crisp wine. Dominant flavours typically include apple, honeysuckle, peach, melon and pear. Secondary flavours can include cream, hazelnut and tropical fruits. Compared to Champagne, Prosecco is fruitier, and can still taste sweet even in drier bottles. Tropical flavours are common in Prosecco, but they are normally less sweet than they are supposed to be with the many ingredients.
As for Champagne, the production process puts it in direct contact with yeast, resulting in certain autolytic flavours such as bread, brioche and toast. Citrus flavours are also very common, with apple, pear, citrus, strawberry, cream, and vanilla (typically on the finish). You will also be able to taste yeast and nutty flavors as these are common denominators in Champagnes. In finer Champagnes, almond-like flavours are always included, with light scents of orange-zest and white cherry.
As it is produced with the Charmat Method, Prosecco contains approximately 3 atmospheres of pressure in it. This makes the bubbles last longer than beer, but last shorter in comparison with champagne. It has a medium to high amount of acidity and large, frothy bubbles. The bubbles contained within are sweet and aromatic, which enhances the fragrance and flavour of Prosecco when tasted.
On the contrary, the bubbles in Champagne are much finer and more persistent than the ones in Prosecco. Not only do the bubbles last longer, but it is a known fact in the industry that the smaller the bubbles are, the higher quality it represents. Due to high carbonation, the bubbles in champagne tend to expand rapidly when they rise, which causes them to dissolve quickly due to the sudden diffusion of carbon dioxide. There are almost 100 million bubbles in a Champagne flute alone.
Prosecco has 3 sweetness levels – Brut, Extra Dry and Dry. Brut level Prosecco contains around 0 – 12 grams of sugar per litre. Extra Dry Prosecco contains roughly 12-17 grams of sugar per litre while the Dry sweetness level for Prosecco has 17-32 grams of sugar per litre.
Champagne has more sweetness levels than Prosecco. In total there are 7 levels of sweetness, which are:
- Brut Nature (bone dry): 0 – 3 grams per litre
- Extra Brut (bone dry): 0 – 6 grams per litre
- Brut (dry): 0 – 12 grams per litre
- Extra dry (fruity): 12 – 17 grams per litre
- Dry (off-dry): 17-32 grams per litre
- Demi Sec (sweet): 32 – 50 grams per litre
- Doux (sweet): 50+ grams per litre
When mixed with different kinds of drinks, Prosecco tends to elevate the festive taste of that drink. When added into cocktails, this wine creates a tropical scent and taste to it that brings out the fruitiness of the drink itself.
Although Prosecco is normally served unmixed, it is a fairly important ingredient in cocktails. This wine serves as a main ingredient in the original Bellini and Spritz Veneziano cocktails. The mixture is easy to mix and often offers a refreshing sip to it.
Popular Prosecco Cocktails are:
- Pomegranate and Orange Punch
- Cranberry Mint-Holiday Punch
- Frozen Aperol Spritz
- Grapefruit Prosecco Cocktail
Champagne, although quite dashing on its own, is also a commonly mixed ingredient in cocktails. There is even a drink called Champagne Cocktail. This cocktail is usually made to satisfy a small group of people.
Some notable mixed drinks using champagne are the Atomic Cocktail, French 75, Air Mail, Ernest Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon and famous Mimosa.
Food Pairing for Prosecco and Champagne
Prosecco is a party drink. The wine is a bit closer to the sweeter side of the spectrum end thereby has a high versatility of food pairings. It can be served as a palate cleanser with its medium to high acidic nature and bubbles present. It is also the perfect drink to go with appetizers, especially fruit-driven ones.
If it is a slightly sweeter bottle, the best dishes to pair it with would be spicy Thai curry or noodles to balance the taste on your palates. Overall, it goes best with Asian cuisines as the acidity impressions in Prosecco will be greatly reduced, producing a richer and creamier taste.
Champagne, on the other hand, is actually one of the best sparkling wines to pair with different food. The innate bubbles of champagne often offer a high density of foam layers, improving on its rich and foamy taste.
Champagne food pairing is a whole new world to explore. Some notable food pairings for Champagne would be shellfish, raw bars, pickled vegetables and oysters. Most seafood dishes are perfect as a pairing dish, but some unexpected tastes are brought about when paired with crispy fried appetizers and some good old potato chips, which is insanely delicious.
All in all, Prosecco and Champagne are extremely different. Prosecco may be cheaper when compared with Champagne, but that doesn’t mean that it does not pose as a competition to the latter. It is up to you to decide which type of wine suits your preference as it is rather hard to say which is better. It is best that you try many different types of Prosecco and Champagne so that you find a drink that is to your liking or join a champagne club so that a sommelier can pick out bubbly to your preferences.