Prosecco vs. Champagne: Understanding the Difference Between These Sparkling Wines

Close-up view of champagne glasses

Prosecco and champagne are both known for their sparkle. Though their names are often used interchangeably, these two sparkling wines are quite distinct. Knowing the difference can help you select the right bottle when pairing foods, mixing a cocktail, or planning an event.

At Columbia Distributing, we distribute alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to retailers throughout Oregon and Washington. Learn more from our experts about what sets prosecco and champagne apart.

One is French, the Other Is Italian

The first difference between champagne and prosecco is the simplest: location. The former originates in France, while the latter is an Italian wine.

All champagne is made in the Champagne region from which it takes its name. The soil here is chalky, super-hydrating, and perfect for growing fat, juicy wine grapes. The area’s climate also plays a part. When champagne was invented, the region suffered freezing winters that halted the fermentation process. As temperatures warmed again, a second fermentation would occur. Carbon dioxide bubbles formed during this second fermentation to create that classic fizz.

Prosecco, meanwhile, comes from the hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. This region of northern Italy is marked by steep slopes, which protect the grapes from extreme weather, and by plenty of rainfall from the nearby Adriatic Sea. It also has fantastic soil. Ancient glaciers have created a wide variety of rocky soils rich with ocean minerals. Each soil type is slightly different, allowing for numerous regional wines, and each has a unique aroma.

Pressing Grapes

While ideal soil and climate are important, you can’t make wine without grapes. Champagne and prosecco also differ in the grape varieties used. There are seven varieties allowed in champagne, with three being the most common:

  • Chardonnay: These mild grapes respond well to variations in the winemaking process, allowing for fine craftsmanship.
  • Pinot Noir: One of the few red grapes allowed in the Champagne region, these bring lovely aromatics and a mouth-filling body and texture.
  • Pinot Meunier: This second red grape type helps balance the blend while brightening it with red berry flavors.

Some other grape varieties are also allowable in champagne blends, including Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Petit Meslier, and Arbane. These are used to balance blends or add complexity. The exact quantity of each grape determines whether the final product will be bone-dry or sweet champagne.

Glera grapes are the main ingredient of prosecco. These grapes have a neutral flavor with white blossom notes, as well as hints of apple, pear, or peach. These grapes grant prosecco a fresh, fruity flavor that sets it apart from the drier champagne.

Adding the Fizz

Though both champagne and prosecco are sparkling wines, each gets its iconic fizz through a unique process. Champagne achieves its bubbles through its second fermentation process within the bottle. This creates extremely fine bubbles for a delicate fizzy texture. It also creates an ideal structure for aging. While champagne can be enjoyed immediately, some bottles are cellared to further develop the flavor.

Instead of fermenting in the bottle, Prosecco is fermented in large quantities within large stainless steel tanks. This process is called Charmat. By reducing contact with the lees (yeast particles), Charmat creates larger, frothier bubbles while allowing the fruity flavor to shine through.

A Drink for Every Occasion

How do you choose which wine to imbibe? Though there are many varieties of champagne, it tends toward the dry end of the spectrum. It boasts subtle fruit aromas alongside spice notes and hints of bread or brioche.

It pairs well with salty or fatty foods like seafood, fried chicken, or creamy risotto. It’s often served as a welcome drink at events and is the beverage of choice for celebrations of all kinds. Whether celebrating a new year, a birthday, or any other special day, reach for a bottle of champagne.

Prosecco is a sweeter wine with bold aromas and fruit notes. This makes it a fantastic choice with cured meats, fruit appetizers, or desserts. Its lightness makes it the perfect pick for a summer party. It’s also great for cocktails. A Peach Bellini is a classic brunch beverage, while the Aperol Spritz makes a delicious aperitif.

Taste the Difference of Prosecco vs. Champagne

Of course, the best way to learn the difference between prosecco and champagne is by tasting. You can sample these wonderful wines yourself with products from Columbia Distributing, which delivers quality alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to retail partners throughout the Oregon and Washington area. Contact us today to learn more or to get started.