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Prosecco vs Champagne: characteristics and differences

How to distinguish Prosecco from Champagne

Loved by all, often confused: we are in fact talking about Prosecco and Champagne! Both wines of European origin, they are effervescent and tend towards a dry rather than sweet taste, but in reality Prosecco and Champagne are very different. Finding out about the characteristics of the two wines can certainly help you understand what the differences are.

 

Prosecco: the characteristics

Famous all over the world, Prosecco is undoubtedly the most exported and requested Italian wine. Initially created as IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica - Typical Geographical Indication), it was awarded DOC (Denominazione d'Origine Controllata - Controlled Designation of Origin) status in 2009, while the existing DOCs became DOCG (Denominazione d'Origine Controllata e Garantita - Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin). 

The first documents mentioning Prosecco date back to the end of the seventeenth century, while from the eighteenth century onwards Prosecco production moved and developed mainly in the hilly area of Veneto and Friuli. Prosecco is the most widely exported Italian wine abroad, and this has led to a number of attempts at imitation. In order to effectively protect the denomination, it was necessary to link the Italian production of Prosecco to a specific area of origin, i.e. the place of the same name near Trieste, and to change the name of the vine by restoring the old Slovenian names: Glera and Glera Lunga.

The main grape variety from which Prosecco is made is Glera; up to a maximum of 15% may be added to the other 8 varieties: Bianchetta, Perera, Verdiso, Glera Lunga, Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Nero.

The Prosecco production areas are not only concentrated in Friuli-Venezia Giulia: the Veneto provinces of Venice, Treviso, Vicenza and Belluno are also dedicated to the cultivation of the Glera vine and boast DOC status. Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG, a variety of excellent quality, is produced on the hills of Conegliano Valdobbiadene.

Before uncorking a bottle of Prosecco, it is a good idea to distinguish between the different variants to put on the table. There are three types of Prosecco, which differ in terms of their production processes:

  • Prosecco Tranquillo, a still wine that has no perlage;
  • Prosecco Spumante, which in turn can be Dry, Extra-Dry and Brut, perfect for pairing with a fish menu;
  • Prosecco Frizzante, which is easy to drink and particularly suitable as an aperitif.

 

Champagne: the characteristics

Famous all over the world for its elegance, Champagne is obviously linked to its production area, Champagne, north-east of Paris. 

The oenological history of this area dates back to Roman times, but it was only in the 17th century that producers began to control the various stages of production, leading in the mid-19th century to what we now call Champagne. The history of Champagne is undoubtedly linked to Dom Pierre Pérignon and Madame Clicquot: the former is credited with inventing the blending of wines into cuvées, while the latter was a great producer.

Vineyards in the Champagne wine-growing area are classified using the "Echelle des Crus" (Cru Scale) method according to the commercial value of the grapes. The three categories are: Grand Cru, Premier Cru and Cru.

Generally, Champagne is made from all three grapes allowed in the specifications, i.e. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. There are also exceptions and you can find pure Chardonnays that make Blanc de Blancs and wines made with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, which are called Blanc de Noirs. Each grape variety naturally has its own role: Chardonnay gives grace and elegance, Pinot Noir adds structure and aromas and Pinot Meunier gives aromatic complexity.

There are five Champagne production areas: 

  • Montagne de Reims,
  • Côte des Blancs, 
  • Vallée de la Marne, 
  • Côte de Sézanne,
  • Aube. 

 

Prosecco and Champagne: the differences

But what are the differences between Prosecco and Champagne? In fact, to most people, they might appear to be very similar wines. In reality, they are very different for several reasons. 

Prosecco is the product of the Charmat Method (or Martinotti Method), the fermentation process that involves both the first and second fermentation in stainless steel tanks called autoclaves. Champagne, on the other hand, is fermented using the traditional Champenoise Method, whereby the second fermentation takes place in the bottle, not in the tank. What's more, it takes just a few months to produce a bottle of Prosecco, whereas Champagne requires at least three years, which is why it is a wine that is more suited to ageing. 
Finally, an element not to be underestimated is the taste. Prosecco is aromatic and fresh on the palate, whereas Champagne tends to be richer and more intense.


Let yourself be surrounded by bubbles and choose the best Prosecco labels selected for you by the experts at Svinando!

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