“SPARKLING WINE” is a very broad term that encompasses any wine with bubbles. Even Champagne is a ‘sparkling wine’ but, importantly, not all sparkling wine is Champagne. Everybody knows that Champagne is French, Cava is Spanish and Prosecco is Italian, but what really differentiates one sparkling wine from the next?
There are many differences but two important ones are location and grapes:
- Champagne can only come from the region of Champagne in north-eastern France and is usually made with the grape varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and/or Meunier.
- Cava comes from Spain and although it can also use Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, it is also made using native grapes such as Parellada and Xarel-lo.
- Prosecco comes from the Veneto region of north-eastern Italy and uses a grape called Glera.
How are they made differently?
Well, that’s another important difference. None of the methods have very sexy names but Cava and Champagne must be made using the Traditional Method – which is the method that creates the most serious bubbles and wines that can age for the longest time. This involves the wine going through a second fermentation process (after the alcohol fermentation) inside the bottle, so the carbon dioxide created sinks back into the wine, making it fizzy.
Prosecco is produced using the Charmat Method. Here, a large body of wine goes through a second fermentation in tanks, rather than in individual bottles, and then the wines are bottled under pressure. Wines that use the Charmat Method are designed to be drunk young.
How do they differ in taste?
There are many styles of fizz, all of which taste different, but if we take a dry white version of each, then:
- A Champagne like Cristal is typically toasty, buttery and has citrus-fruit flavours.
- Cava usually has a very distinctive sour taste but can taste toasty, too.
- Prosecco has a very floral – almost soapy – perfume and usually tastes of pear drops.
Can you get different styles of each?
Yes, absolutely. Any type of fizz – whether it’s Champagne, Cava or English sparkling wine – has different styles within the range. Bone-dry, slightly sweet, white, pink, a single vintage, a combination of vintages, one grape or a combination of grapes… the list goes on. That’s why the world of sparkling wine is so exciting and delicious. There are endless possibilities and new styles to try!