Types of Sparkling wine: Prosecco vs Champagne

Prosecco vs Champagne: What is the difference? Champagne is usually the reference for sparkling wine, but there are many other good alternatives available. Italian Prosecco is becoming increasingly popular and is a strong competitor to Champagne. In this sparkling wine guide we compare the different types of sparkling wine. 

Prosecco vs Champagne compared with two sparkling wine glasses

Published April 10th 2020

Have you ever wondered what is the difference between Prosecco and Champagne? Then this guide is for you. Champagne is the most famous sparkling wine, but there is a whole world of bubbly wines made with different methods.

Most sparkling wines are white or rosé, but there are also red sparkling wines. What they all have in common is have carbon dioxide added, which gives the wine its bubbles. The flavours of sparkling wine can be anything from zesty and citrus to delicate berry flavours. Some have delicious flavours of toast and nuts.

Sparkling wine is certainly a very diverse wine style and in this article we get an overview of some of the most common styles, where they are made, and the typical profile for each of them.

Champagne - France

Champagne is the most famous (and often most expensive) sparkling wine. In order to be called Champagne, a wine must be produced in the Champagne region in northern France.

This wine is produced using the "méthode champenoise", which includes a second fermentation in the bottle. This method gives the wine its characteristic small delicate bubbles.

Only three grape varieties can be used for making Champagne: Chardonnay (white), Pinot Noir (red) and Pinot Meunier (red). If a Champagne is made using only white grapes (Chardonnay) then it is called "Blanc de Blancs", meaning "white from whites". If it is made using only red grapes (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier), then it is called "Blanc de Noirs", meaning "white from reds".

There are many different styles of Champagne. Most non-vintage Champagnes and Blanc de Blancs styles are fresh and dry, with flavours of citrus, mineral and tropical fruit. Rosé Champagne and Blanc de Noir styles have slightly more body and hints of berry flavours. Vintage Champagnes are usually rich with delicious flavours of brioche, nuts, vanilla and caramel.

Tips! The sweetness level of Champagne can range from bone-dry (brut nature) to very sweet (doux). If you want learn more, check out out article about the different sweetness levels of Champagne.

Prosecco - Italy 

Prosecco is becoming more and more popular all over the world. This is partly because of its budget-friendly price, but mostly for its slightly sweet and fruity flavours. Prosecco is produced in Northeastern Italy in the wine regions of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The grape variety used in Prosecco is Glera. 

This wine is made using a different method than in Champagne. Prosecco is made by the tank method which means that it is fermented in steel tanks which gives the wines larger bubbles than many other sparkling wines. This makes it perfect to use in cocktails such as mimosas.

Tips! The hint of sweetness makes Prosecco a great paring with many different foods, including spicy dishes.

Cava - Spain

In addition to Champagne and Prosecco, there is the Spanish Cava. Cava is a sparkling wine produced using the traditional method with a second fermentation in the bottle - just like Champagne.

The grape variety used for making Cava is mostly the Spanish grape Macabeo, which gives the wine a fresh citrus flavour. Cava is similar to Champagne with a dry and zesty profile, but at a more affordable price. It is known for its floral aromas and notes of pear.

Like other sparkling wines, Cava is a food-friendly wine which offers many great pairings.

Tips! If you want a cheaper sparkling wine with a similar style as Champagne - try a Cava! It is more similar to Champagne than Prosecco is. 

Crémant - France

Crémant is the name for all French sparkling wines produced outside Champagne. Crémants are produced using the same method as Champagne with fermentation in the bottle.

This type of wine is produced all over France, often with different grapes than in Champagne. Pinot Gris, Riesling and Pinot Blanc are common grape varieties in Crémants.

Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant de Alsace and Crémant de Limoux (Languedoc-Roussillon) are sparkling wines from famous French wine regions.

Tips! Crémant is perfect for those of you who are looking for affordable wines with a style similar to Champagne. 

Other sparkling wines

Most wine-producing countries make sparkling wine. Portugal's sparkling is called Espumante and it ranges in many different styles. German sparkling wines are called Sekt, and are usually a bit sweeter and lower in alcohol compared Champagne. The alcohol levels of Sekt can be as low as 6% and its aromas are usually fruity and floral. There are also sparkling wines from the USA, Argentina, South Africa and other countries.

One of the trendiest sparkling wines at the moment are the so called Pétillant Naturel, ”Pét Nat”, wines. These are natural sparkling wines produced in the "méthode ancestral", or "ancestral method", which is known to be the most natural and old-fashioned way to produce sparkling wines.