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Prosecco vs Champagne: What’s the difference? Ask Decanter

Two popular styles of sparkling wine, but each very different. We explain the main differences between Champagne and Prosecco wines...

What are the similarities between Prosecco and Champagne? Of course, both are sparkling wines.

Both are also permitted to make rosé sparkling wines under the respective names; although the Prosecco rosé category was only approved in May 2020.

Both 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 vinegrowing area, in 2019.

Prosecco vs Champagne: Regions and grapes

In terms of differences, first things first, Champagne comes from the Champagne region in France, and Prosecco from Veneto in Northern Italy.

Champagne can be a blend or single varietal wine made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

Prosecco is made from the Glera grape variety.

Difference between Champagne Prosecco

Credit: Cath Lowe/Decanter

Prosecco vs Champagne: Methods of production

The second key difference between these two sparkling wines are the methods of production; in particular, how the wine is made sparkling.

In both cases, the original still wine undergoes a second fermentation, creating the CO2 which makes it sparkling.

In Champagne, the method Champenoise or ‘traditional method’ is used. Other sparkling wine styles that tend to use this method include Crémant sparkling wines and Spanish Cavas.

This where the second fermentation happens in the bottle; yeast is added along with sugars (liqueur de tirage).

The bottles are left tipped, neck down, in racks, so when fermentation has finished, the dead yeast cells collect in the neck.

When it is ready, the neck of the bottle is frozen and the dead yeast cells release – a process called ‘disgorgement’.

The wine is then resealed and left to age; for non-vintage, it must be aged a minimum of 18 months, for vintage it is three years.

difference between Champagne and Prosecco

A bottle being disgorged

In Prosecco, the ‘tank method’ is most often used, where the second fermentation happens in a large tank.

Again, yeast is added, along with sugars, to the base wine. While second fermentation happens, the tank is sealed to prevent the CO2 from escaping, making the wine fizzy, before it is bottled and sealed.

Prosecco vs Champagne: Flavour profiles

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

The closer contact with the yeast in the Champagne method means that it generally has more autolytic flavours – bread, brioche and toast, as well as citrus fruit flavours.

The yeast has less of an influence on the Prosecco made with the tank method, because there is less contact during the second fermentation.

Prosecco is more about the fruit flavour profile of the Glera grape – associated with pear, apple, plus honeysuckle and floral notes.

However, some of the best Prosecco styles do also have lees ageing, or are made using the ‘traditional method’, generally giving a more complex wine.

Best sparkling wines: 22 under £20

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