Difference between Prosecco and Champagne

Published on June 21, 2016

If you are one of those people who plan on expanding their horizons and learning more about food and drinks, then reading up on the difference between Prosecco and Champagne would be a good place to start. You would not want to be caught mistaking the two at an important event, right, as you are doing such a great job looking cool and knowing your way around fine beverages.

Definitions

Prosecco vs Champagne

Prosecco is an Italian white wine, originating from the region of Treviso. It can either be bubbly (spumante) or still (tranquillo) and it even has an in-between for the indecisive (frizzante). Traditionally, Prosecco is made out of Glera grapes, originally cultivated in the region of Prosecco and is a DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata, meaning a product from a controlled origin) and a DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita meaning a product from a controlled and guaranteed origin) for the region between the two towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. These are quality certifications that assure everyone that the product they are buying did really come from the mentioned region and that it is produced according to its specifications. This is to keep any other type of wine from being randomly called a Prosecco.

Apart from the Glera grape, Prosecco can also be made from the Perera, Bianchetta and Verdiso, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir grapes. However, it is the Glera type that was documented as early as 79 AD. The process through which this wine is made is called “charmat”, and it involves it being stored in steel tanks for its second process of fermentation. This accessible means of production makes for an affordable price on the shelf.

The sweetness of the Prosecco depends on the grams of residual sugar per liter. Brut has up to 12 grams of residual sugar per liter, Extra Dry means between 12 and 17 grams/liter and Dry means 17 -32 grams of residual sugar per liter.

The top of the line in Prosecco production is the Superiore di Cartizze. This is the highest quality Prosecco wine, and it comes from the steep slopes of Cartizze, where legend has it that these were the last grapes to be picked and were the ripest. Overall, Prosecco has a light and fruity taste.

Champagne is a fizzy wine, the consumption of which we usually associate with a special celebration. It is made in France in the region with the same name, out of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier or Chardonnay grapes. In order for a wine to be Champagne, it has to meet strict provisions. Champagne is a product of protected origin (appellation d’origine contrôlée) and the French have come up with a very comprehensive set of rules and regulations for the wine produced in the area. The method champagne is made with is known as the Methode Champenoise.

Champagne must come from grapes grown specifically on certain slopes and it must be pressed according to the tradition of the region. After the first process of fermentation, champagne must go through a second process of fermentation in the wine bottle, where yeast and rock sugar are added. This stage usually takes 1.5 years.

Champagne can be non-vintage, meaning that the types of grapes it is made of come from different vintages. Production houses are allowed to have up to 80% of the production non-vintage and this ensures buyers that they get the same quality and taste every time, which is known to be a difficult thing to achieve. The Prestige cuvee is the top of a producer’s range. The Blanc de noirs are the wines made from the flesh of red and black grapes, namely Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The Blanc de blancs mean white wine from white grapes, Chardonnay in this case, or Pinot Blanc, on rare occasions. There is also a version of Pink Champagne, initially sold in the 50s and 60s in the US, where the original was considered too dry. This was a sweetened and cheap version and was discontinued. A Brut Rose Champagne was created in the 90s, and it is an exception to the rule of letting the darker skins come into contact with the juice.

As far as taste is concerned, you can choose between drier or sweeter types of champagne, and it all depends on the ripeness of the fruit and on the amount of sugar added after the second fermentation. The Extra Brut is the champagne with less than 3 grams of residual sugar per liter. The Brut has less than 12 grams of residual sugar per liter, the Extra Dry has between 12 and 17 grams, the Sec has between 17 and 32 grams, the Demi-Sec has between 32 and 50 grams of residual sugar per liter, and the Doux has 50 grams.

Prosecco vs Champagne

So what is the difference between Prosecco and Champagne?

Both beverages are types of white wine and they are both named for the region they were first produced in. They are both products with protected name origin and must come from the specified regions and be made according to area specifications in order to be called Prosecco or Champagne. You can tell how sweet a beverage is according to the Brut – Dry indicators on the label, yet the Prosecco usually has a sweet, fruity taste, while Champagne has a more complex taste due to its prolonged fermentation process.

Unlike Champagne, Prosecco is left inside steel tanks for its second fermentation. This makes the whole process more cost effective and the final price of the product is more accessible; a good bottle of champagne can start at around $40, but a good bottle of Prosecco is about $12-14. They both have a “top of the line” option, as well as areas which produce less for better quality.

Comparison Chart

ProseccoChampagne
Is a bubbly white wine made according to certain specificationsIs a bubbly white wine made according to certain specifications
Made in ItalyMade in France
Named after the region of Prosecco, where the Glera grapes were grown originallyNamed after the region of Champagne
Is a product with an origin protected nameIs a product with an origin protected name
Has a second fermentation processHas a second fermentation process
Made with the Methode CharmatMade with the Methode Champenoise
The second fermentation is done in steel tanksThe second fermentation is done in the bottle
More accessible; prices around $12-14Pricier; prices around $40
Has different levels of dryness or sweetness of tasteHas different levels of dryness or sweetness of taste