There's nothing better than walking into a party to find that the corks have been popped and the bubbly is flowing. It's like a bottle of liquid sparkles that help get the fun started, whatever the occasion may be (and right now, that occasion is just being able to be together again!). But while you may understand the different flavor profiles involved from sweet rosé to brut, do you really know the difference between Champagne and Prosecco? Personally, while I've always known there was something that differentiated them, if you asked me to pinpoint what makes one different from the other, I'd freeze up like a deer in headlights.
In order to get a definitive answer, we made a call to Melissa Rockwell, direct-to-consumer sales manager for Long Island, NY-based Sparkling Pointe, a manufacturer of sparkling wines located on the North Fork of Long Island. "All Champagne is sparking wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne," she told POPSUGAR. As it turns out, it's all about the wine's origin and the grapes it's made with. As for sparkling wine? That's just a broad term that describes any wine with bubbles in it . . . so technically, sparkling wine is both Prosecco and Champagne. Mind. Blown.
Where Are Champagne and Prosecco Made?
To start, Rockwell said, Champagne is made in the Champagne region of France and is made from either a single variety or a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Prosecco is manufactured in Northern Italy and is mostly made from the Glera grape, although it can also be made from a few other varietals. "In Europe, the wines are named after the region where the grapes are grown. All sorts of environmental factors affect your flavors, and it would be misleading to consumers to put a name on a label that isn't where the grapes grow," she said.
And while region is important, she did note that there are some older wineries outside of Champagne, France, like Korbel in Sonoma, CA, that do use the word "Champagne" on the products because they were "grandfathered in before these agreements went into effect."
How Are Champagne and Prosecco Made?
According to Rockwell, the main difference between Champagne and Proscecco is the process in which the sparkling drinks are made. She explained that Champagne is made through a process called méthode champenoise in which a base wine is created and then goes through two different fermentation processes — one in a tank, and a second directly in the bottle itself. It can take 10 years or more to produce a bottle of Champagne, allowing it to develop a complex flavor profile. Using this more traditional method for fermentation is typically done with older wines to ensure the most bubbly result.
"Most sparkling wine will have méthode champenoise on the label if they use that process because there are easier ways to get bubbles that don't taste as good," she said. It's also worth nothing that Prosecco, too, is fermented twice — using a charmot method. The difference here is that both times it is fermented in the tank. This much more affordable "tank method" for Prosecco is designed for younger wines, and the speedier fermentation process makes Prosecco more affordable than Champagne.
Is There a Difference in Taste Between Champagne and Prosecco?
As for flavor profiles, Rockwell explained that Proseccos tend to be lighter and a little less complex than Champagne and that, oftentimes, she finds them to also be a little bit sweeter. Price points differ, too. A bottle of good Champagne — not quite high-end and not quite low-end — will set you back about $40 a bottle, whereas experts note that you can get the same quality Prosecco for $13 a bottle. "There is definitely a value to Prosecco," Rockwell said. And we couldn't agree more.