The Difference Between Champagne and Proseccco

In this article we’ll look at the difference between the two iconic sparkling wines, champagne and prosecco. We’ll look at what makes them different and the pros and cons of both wines. We’ll cover price and explain why champagne is so expensive compared to prosecco as well as describing what prosecco and champagne taste like.

One of the main differences between champagne and prosecco is geography.

In order for a sparkling wine to say ‘champagne’ on the label the grapes that go into it must be grown in designated villages in the Champagne region. The Champagne region is in the north-eastern area of France to the east of Paris. The wine must be made there too.

For a sparkling wine to say ‘prosecco’ on the label the grapes and the wine must be produced in the Prosecco region in the north east corner of Italy, north of Venice. The wine must be made there too.


Champagne

The first champagne wines were thin, red (made with the black skinned, pinot noir, grape) and very acidic because the climate in that area does not lend itself to grape ripening. The bubbles so famous now, were considered a fault in the early 1700s. An additional problem was that the early bottles were unable to withstand the pressure of the carbon dioxide in the bottle. The exploding bottles caused havoc in the cellars! It was the UK that gave the champagne makers a significant nudge towards producing the drink we know today. An Englishman developed a bottle strong enough to cope with the bubbles and at the same time rich Brits in the 19th century developed such a love for bubbles that it encouraged champagne makers to leave them in the wine.

Nowadays there’s plethora of famous names to choose from; Moët et Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Bollinger, Taittinger, the list goes on. These famous Houses make millions of bottles every year (champagne making on an industrial, factory-like scale) and spend vast amounts on slick advertising and sponsorship. For value for money, it’s well worth trying champagnes from small producers especially those based in grand cru and premier cru villages. Their champagnes are likely to cost less than the big names and you’ll get better quality grapes in the bottle. To get a very decent bottle of brut champagne you need only spend around £25-£30 a bottle. Sometimes even less from a trusted wine merchant who can advise you.


Prosecco

The glera grape used to make prosecco has been grown in Italy since antiquity and is even referred to by Pliny the Elder. It’s thought that prosecco was mentioned for the first time in the late 1500s by a Brit (are there no bounds to our insatiable appetite for bubbles in the UK?!) The wine made at this time was very sweet and similar to asti spumante. It wasn’t until the 1960s that prosecco began to develop into the sparkling wine we know today. It’s meteoric rise to fame in the UK didn’t occur until the start of the 2010s, since then it’s been phenomenally popular. Will its bubble burst? There are certainly signs that sales are slowing as drinkers start to look for the next big thing!

It seems that prosecco as a drink is more famous than individual brands of prosecco. Some popular names that you might have heard of are Bottega, Zonin and Mionetto. How much should you pay for a decent bottle of prosecco? Prosecco has two quality levels DOC and DOCG. You should expect to pay more for a DOCG. Buying a DOCG prosecco usually guarantees a decent bottle. Expect to pay between £12 -£15. Beware very cheap DOC proseccos that say ‘Extra Dry’ on the label and are under £10. Extra Dry proseccos contain more sugar than brut proseccos. It can sometimes mean extra sugar has been added to mask poor quality grape juice.


Champagne Region

The villages where the highest quality grapes are grown have Grand Cru status, there are 17 of these in the champagne region. The second highest quality is Premier Cru there are 44 villages with this status the remaining 257 villages have appellation status. There are five main areas in Champagne; the Vallée de la Marne, the Montagne de Reims, Côte des Blancs; Côte de Sézanne and the Côte des Bar.

Prosecco region

Conegliano and Valdobiaddene and the area between these two villages are deemed to produce the best quality grapes. The hill of Cartizze is the very best area.


Taste Test – Champagne versus Prosecco

In order to fully understand why champagne and prosecco taste so different it’s important to understand a bit about how they’re made.

Champagne is made using one or more of these 3 grapes (These grapes have the potential to make complex wines which age well):

  • chardonnay
  • pinot noir
  • pinot meunier

Prosecco is made using Glera.

This grape is fruity and best drunk young as it usually doesn’t develop much with age.


Champagne versus Prosecco – How are they made?

how are champagne and prosecco made?

For both champagne and prosecco a still wine is made first.

how champagne is made

Champagne

  1. Still wines are blended together, sugar and yeast are added to the finished blend and this is bottled
  2. The yeast and sugar ferment, carbon dioxide is made as a by-product it has nowhere to escape so it dissolves into the champagne creating the bubbles.
  3. The champagne bottles remain in the cellar with the yeast sediment inside for at least 15 months. (It’s removed before sale)
  4. Because of the contact with the yeast sediment the champagne develops baked notes, baked fruit, pastry, biscuit, bread, caramel and is said to be complex because you can usually taste several flavours.

Prosecco

  1. Once prosecco makers have a still wine they put it in a large tank and add the yeast and sugar to the tank.
  2. The tank is sealed so the carbon dioxide has no where to escape and dissolves into the wine creating bubbles.
  3. The yeast sediment is only left in contact with the prosecco for around a month before removal, then the prosecco is bottled and sold.
  4. Prosecco has very little time contact with the yeast sediment and the tank has a much larger surface area than a bottle so the yeast does not impart flavours into prosecco like it does with champagne.
  5. The result is a fruity, easy drinking sparkling wine.

Flavours found in Prosecco

Flavours found in champagne


Food pairings

Most champagne is very dry, this brisk acidity works wonderfully well with rich and fatty foods. Fish and chips with blanc de blancs champagne is a match made in heaven (just bear in mind too much vinegar can make the champagne lose its flavour). Fried foods like fried chicken are fantastic. Shellfish and smoked salmon are also natural partners. Salty snacks and hard cheeses work wonderfully well to.

As Prosecco is quite fruity and naturally sweeter in style, it pairs well with Chinese and Thai food. Bear in mind the dishes of Italy, prosecco is great with cured meats and parma ham wrapped round melon. Bread sticks and crisps are also a great match.

Calories!

The amount of calories in champagne and prosecco are almost the same, prosecco only very slightly less as the alcohol percentage of prosecco is 11% and champagne it’s 12%. At the end of the day the body treats alcohol like sugar, so drink in moderation for your weight and also your general health!


Pricing

Champagne is more expensive than prosecco for the following reasons:

Champagne grapes cost more than prosecco grapes

From the beginning of producing a bottle of champagne it’s around two years before the producer can sell his champagne that’s a lot of time in the cellar before receiving any payment.

From beginning to end a producer sell his prosecco in three months, this means fewer overheads to cover.


So now you can choose your favourite tipple with confidence!

Here’s some prosecco and champagne that you might like…