Sparkling wine, Prosecco or Champagne? The differences between the most famous "bubbles"

  • 25/10/2021

​When we think about food and wine excellences of Italy, wine is one of the first that comes to mind. Among the most appreciated, not only in Italy but also abroad, there are undoubtedly the "bubbles". Prosecco and sparkling wine are the party wines par excellence, to be uncorked when there is a special occasion to celebrate and which have always accompanied the Christmas toast, New Year's Eve, birthdays and weddings. They are more than simple "bubbles" but real status symbols: bottles that offer moments of joy as bright, pure and sparkling as the color and consistency of the wine. 

But if it is true that they are often used as synonyms, it is equally true that there is a notable difference between Spumante and Prosecco and, finally, the prestigious Champagne. Let's find out what it is!

What are we talking about when we talk about sparkling wine

The first - big - difference is that, when we talk about sparkling wine, we are talking about a real category of generic wines obtained according to different processing methods and starting from different qualities of grapes, grown all over the world. We mean all those wines that, after opening, release carbon dioxide produced directly by the double fermentation in the bottle, generating the unmistakable froth and, therefore, the "bubbles" that distinguish them. In fact, these are the elements that everyone appreciates, in addition to the effect created when the flute is filled: that is, the bubbles that, from the base of the glass, rise upwards, a characteristic defined as the perlage of the wine and which gives a sensation sparkling and fresh on the palate.

Other aspects that characterize this category - unlike others - are the low alcohol content, and the classic method, the oldest and most popular, also called champenoise, or the Martinotti-Charmat method. Finally, the sparkling wine is not linked to a specific area of origin: in Italy, in fact, there are many areas famous for the production of bubbles, from Franciacorta to Prosecco.

Prosecco: what do we mean?

Prosecco is a DOC or DOCG white wine: in both cases, production must be subject to a strict disciplinary, which defines the types of grape varieties allowed, a geographical area, the rules for winemaking, labeling and so on. It is produced in Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia with the Glera, Verdiso, Pinot bianco, grigio or nero grapes, exclusively with the Charmat method. Prosecco, therefore, is also a sparkling wine: so what's the difference?

Difference between sparkling wine and prosecco

If sparkling wine is a category of wines with different origins, grapes and regulations, prosecco on the other hand, as we have seen, can also be a sparkling wine but produced only in certain specific areas of Italy, with certain types of grapes and with a precise method of sparkling wine, and it is these characteristics that make it distinctive.

Alcoholic fermentation, as we know, is the basis of wine: the sugars naturally present in grapes are transformed into alcohol and carbon dioxide. For sparkling wine, the second fermentation takes place in the bottle in order to capture the carbon dioxide inside, creating the unmistakable bubbles. For prosecco, however, the second fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks and not in the bottle, using the Charmat method. The result is a fresh and aromatic wine, which has lower production costs and does not require aging; for this reason, it should be durnk young and is immediately ready to drink. 

Finally, it is good to specify that not all prosecco are sparkling wines. In fact, there are varieties - the “Tranquillo" or the “Frizzante" - which are characterized precisely by being with less bubbles or even still.

Dry or Brut: how to choose?

The difference between prosecco and sparkling wine lies in the grape variety used, in the place of origin and in the method of sparkling wine. But what are the analogies? As we have said, many bottles of Prosecco are in effect sparkling wines and there is also no difference in the level of sugars present. For both, in fact, we speak of: 

Brut nature or zero dosage: sugar content below 3 g/L

Extra brut: sugar content between 0 and 6 g/L

Brut: sugar content between 6 and 12 g/L

Extra dry: sugar content between 12 and 17 g/L

Dry: sugar content between 17 and 32 g/L

Demi sec: sugar content between 32 and 50 g/L

Sweet: sugar content higher than 50 g/L 

It is essential to pay attention to these writings on the label, which constitute a first guide that helps to define the flavor and aroma of the wine and, therefore, to guide the purchase choice for pairing with food. Brut prosecco or sparkling wines and its sub-categories, having a lower and barely perceptible sugar content, will have a dry and decisive taste and are ideal for an aperitif or meal: they accompany particularly important dishes, helping to "degrease", or fish or white meat dishes. Although the name may be misleading - dry in fact means “dry" - wines of this category instead have a softer and more sweet taste, therefore ideal to be enjoyed at the end of a meal or as a dessert. Finally, in the Sweet category wines the perception of sugar is clear.

Sparkling wine or Champagne?

If we talk about bubbles, we cannot fail to mention what is considered "the" bubble par excellence, namely Champagne. But what's the difference with sparkling wine? Let's take a step back and try to understand what is meant by "champagne". It is a sparkling wine obtained with the classic method and starting from three grape varieties, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. These must come exclusively from the Champagne region, 150 kilometers northeast of Paris, according to the plots of land registered in the Marne, Aisne, Seine-et-Marne and Haut-Marne departments. From the law point of view, the differences between Champagne and sparkling wine are enormous: in fact, in France, in order not to create confusion between the two products, the term Crémant is used to indicate the generic sparkling wine.

Cerrus Brut, the Fattoria del Cerro sparkling wine to accompany special moments

These types of wines are suitable both for aperitifs and to enjoy dessert at the end of a meal, especially on convivial occasions. There is therefore a bubble suitable for every moment of the meal, of the year or of life. In the cellars of Fattoria del Cerro, located in Acquaviva in Montepulciano in the province of Siena, the largest private producer of Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG wine, another treasure is hidden, which “shines" for its personality. This is Cerrus Brut, the first sparkling wine produced with the classic method by Tenute del Cerro. Made with grapes grown exclusively in the Montepulciano area, these are then softly pressed, left to ferment at a controlled temperature to ensure excellent aromatic concentration and, finally, left to ageing for a long time until bottling, when the wine is slowly foamed for at least 24 months. These characteristics ensure that the result is a straw yellow wine with golden reflections and a fine perlage. On the nose delicately floral notes stand out with hints of bread crust, while the sip is fresh, satisfying and enveloping. Cerrus Brut is perfect as an aperitif or for moments of celebration and is suitable to pair with appetizers or dishes based on fish, raw seafood or shellfish, but also pasta or risotto based on fish or vegetables, such as ricotta and saffron gnocchi on courgette cream.

Have you already chosen your "bubble" for the next big occasion?