Posted: Jan 11, 2019
If you're anything like me, you've probably stood aimlessly in the middle of the sparkling wine aisle at the liquor store on too many occasions. Whenever I'm in that situation, I'm usually debating between champagne and prosecco. I mean, what's the difference between champagne and prosecco, anyway? Both are bubbly, both are delicious, and both are (somewhat) affordable. After 10 minutes of weighing the pros and cons of each bottle, I usually end up opting for whatever is the cheapest. Isn't that always the case?
Anyway, one of my New Year's resolutions is to understand the differences between the two so I can make a quick and educated decision during my next bubbly run. Before doing research, I knew one thing from experience: Champagne was almost always more expensive than prosecco. Therefore, I usually opted for the latter during my liquor store runs. Still, I wanted to know more about what caused that price difference, and why people choose one over the other. Did it have to do with the grapes that were used to make each bottle? Or, did it have to do with the wine-making process? Believe it or not, both factors are involved, and they help differentiate one from the other.
Let's start with my personal favorite, prosecco. According to WineFolly.com, prosecco is made from glera grapes in the Veneto region of Italy (that's one characteristic that sets it apart from champagne). Because of those grapes, prosecco usually features sweet, fruity flavors like green apple, honeydew melon, cream, and pear.
So, why it typically cheaper than champagne? Apparently, you can thank its production method. Per WineFolly.com, prosecco is made by using the "Tank Method," which is simpler and more affordable than champagne's production process (which I'll get into soon). In case you haven't already scoured your liquor store for a bottle, you can usually find prosecco for $12 to $14 a pop — no pun intended.
OK, let's get into champagne. It's classic, it's bubbly, and it's delicious — but how is it different from prosecco? According to WineFolly.com, champagne is made from pinot meunier, pinot noir, and chardonnay grapes in the Champagne region of France (go figure!). Because of those grapes, champagne has a "sharper" taste and features aromas like citrus, peach, toast, and white cherry.
Apparently, the process behind making champagne is different than prosecco, which reportedly affects its cost. According to WineFolly.com, champagne is made using the "Traditional Method" — aka the Classic Method — which brings the wine through an extensive process of fermentation, aging, consolidation, and more. Per WineFolly, you can grab a standard bottle for $40 — so maybe you can save the champagne for a special occasion.
As you can see, the major differences between prosecco and champagne have to do with four factors: the grapes that are used, the wine-making processes, the regions where they're made, and, of course, their tastes. If you prefer a sweet bubbly drink that won't break the bank, opt for prosecco. If you want to splurge on a classic bottle that has a bitter taste, opt for champagne.
Hopefully this article comes in handy next time you're standing aimlessly in the bubbly aisle at the liquor store. Cheers!
Christmas is just around the corner, which means it's time to start thinking about the bites and sips you'll be offering as part of your holiday spread. If you're in charge of providing the festive sips at a Christmas dinner, office party, or any other holiday gathering, you might be wondering, what’s the difference between champagne and sparkling wine, such as a prosecco, or a cava? Is there a real difference between the bubblies, and is choosing a bottle of champagne for your gathering worth the extra price tag?
The short answer is that the differences between champagne and sparkling wine are based on the location that the libation came from (as well as the method that was used to create the bubbly). First things first: while all champagne can be classified as sparkling wine, not all sparkling wine can be accurately called champagne.
Sparkling wine, technically, is any wine that contains carbon dioxide bubbles, which means beverages like prosecco, cava, sekt, and yes, champagne, are all included in the category. However, what differentiates these different types of sparkling wine from each other are where they were made and how they got their fizz.
In many European winemaking countries, there are strict limits on how winemakers can label wine depending on where it was made and what kind of grapes are in it. For example, prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine that's usually made from glera grapes, while Spanish c ava is made from macabeu, parellada, and xarello grapes, according to Boston Magazine.
When it comes to quality and the strict guidelines governing its creation, champagne is on a different level.
Champagne, by definition (and European law), comes from the Champagne region in France, and is generally made with chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot munier grapes (although there are several other grapes permitted, these are the most common ones). The grapes also must be grown in Champagne, which is known for its mild climate and mineral-rich soil, and the juice must undergo a very precise process to make the resulting beverage. After the liquid undergoes an initial effervescence treatment to give it its bubbles, all potential champagnes are subject to the "méthode Champenoise," or the "traditional method."
Unlike a sparkling wine like prosecco, which oftentimes undergoes the second fermentation in a big vat, champagnes go through the process in each individual bottle, making it much more specialized and complex. A liqueur de tirage (a wine solution of sugar and yeast) is added to the wine base, which starts off the process. This accounts for champagne's notoriously high price tag.
It's important to note, however, that many winemakers use the specialized "méthod Champenoise" on other sparkling wines using different grapes, such as vineyards in the United States or other parts of Europe. However, because these wines aren't derived from grapes grown in the Champagne region, they technically don't qualify as champagne. Many are equally delicious and very high quality, however, and your choice should come down to individual taste and preference.
With champagne and other sparkling wines, there are a few other things to take into consideration when picking your bottle, namely how sweet you want your sips to be. If you pick a "Brut" bottle, expect a refreshment that's very dry on the palate. Weirdly enough, an "Extra Dry" sparkling wine is actually the opposite of what you'd think because it's sweeter than "Brut." The order of sparkling wines from driest to sweetest goes: Brut, Extra Dry or Extra Sec, Sec, Demi-Sec and Doux, so keep that in mind when you're perusing your grocery store.
Again, your bottle of bubbly should come down to your taste and preference, not what's most prestigious or most expensive, so I'd recommend grabbing a flute and sampling a few of the different options before making a final decision. Cheers!
By Amanda Fama
January 11, 2018
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