Battle of the Bubbles: Champagne vs Prosecco
Champagne and Prosecco go head to head for the title of supreme sparkler. Sparkling wine; it’s synonymous with celebration and a party starter for all occasions. I love 'em all, especially Champagne and Prosecco. However, a recent conversation with a friend about Champagne’s superiority got me thinking - does French fizz really have the edge over Italian bubbles?
The big debate
In all honesty, they’re just different and should be judged on their own merits rather than pitted against each other. So let’s see what makes each of these sparkling wines so magnetic.
In terms of taste, texture and bubbles, the varieties used and method of production really define the taste profile of both Champagne and Prosecco. So let’s take a little look at this starting with Champagne.
Origins of Champagne
Champagne is both a wine and region in northeast France. Thanks to a bunch of medieval monks who unwittingly discovered secondary fermentation (and the subsequent expertise of English glassmakers who made bottles strong enough to capture the fizz), Champagne exists.
What makes Champagne?
Grapes do; traditionally chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier are used in Champagne. They’re picked with high acidity and fermented just like any other wine - at this stage it’s a cuvee or blend - before some sugar and yeast are added to the blend and it’s put in bottle and sealed off with a crown cap. Now here comes the magic part...
Secondary fermentation starts, with the yeast eating up the sugar and converting it to carbon dioxide and alcohol. And because the CO2 can’t escape, it remains trapped. Hello, bubbles!
Once the yeast has done its job, it dies (in a good way) and settles in the neck of the bottle, undergoing chemical changes that lend some funky characters to the Champagne. It’s then removed in a process called ‘disgorging’, topped up with a special little tincture that determines the sweetness of the Champagne, and closed off with a cork. Voila! (We had to say ‘voila’ at least once in this feature.)
Champagne character profile
All this adds up to a wine that, depending on the grapes used, smells of citrus and red fruits with prominent notes of biscuit that lead to a round, creamy and refreshingly bubbly palate. A delicious outcome but one that involves many steps along the way and this, among other things, adds to the price tag.
The fact remains though that it is incomparable and great Champagne is worth its weight in gold.
It’s both the name of a white grape and a style of sparkling wine that originates from north east Italy. Unfairly known as the ‘poor person’s Champagne’, Prosecco has undergone a transformation in the last 50 years from sweet, low-quality froth to sophisticated sparkling that is currently flying off the shelves the world over.
Straightforward sparkling wine
Prosecco’s charm lies in its simplicity and quaffable nature. It’s made using the Charmat Method where secondary fermentation takes place in steel tanks and the carbonated wine is then quickly transferred to bottle under pressure and super-chilled conditions, making it fresher and less expensive to produce than Champagne, so you can totally justify celebrating with it every day. Although due to increasing popularity Prosecco is also becoming less affordable so live it up while it lasts.
Mix it up with Prosecco
There is plenty to party about because Prosecco is usually dry and super-fresh with subtle notes of green apples, pears, honeysuckle and lively effervescence. It’s also generally lower in alcohol compared to Champagne which makes it a little lighter as an aperitif (always a bonus if you want to stay steady and not too heady). And personally, it rocks in cocktails because its relatively neutral flavour works in harmony with elements in the mix. And I’m a sucker for a good ‘Hugo’ spritz, which we’ll come back to in a bit.
We have a winner... or do we?
It’s not a contest! However, if questioned about which one I’d take to a desert island I’d say this… Champagne, although I’d totally swim to my nearest neighbours for Prosecco sundowners any day of the week.
Oh and for those wondering what a ‘Hugo’ is, check out the mixing instructions below. Enjoy and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more wine videos!
Also known as the ‘Alpine Spritz’, a ‘Hugo’ is a light and breezy aperitivo is super popular in summer or winter in the South Tyrol and around the Dolomites in general.
‘Hugo Spritz’ ingredients:
Three parts Prosecco
One part elderflower cordial
One part soda water
Pour Prosecco over lots of ice then top up with elderflower cordial and soda water before finishing with a sprig of mint
Called a Soixante Quinze, the French 75 is a Champagne cocktail that made its debut in the 1920s and was popularised in America at the prestigious Stork Club in New York. It’s a heady mix that will get any party swinging in no time.
‘French 75’ ingredients:
- 2 ounces gin -- London dry gin
- 2 dash of sugar syrup
- 1/2 ounce lemon juice
- 5 ounces Brut champagne
- Collins glass
Shake gin, sugar syrup and lemon juice with cracked ice in a chilled cocktail shaker and strain into a Collins glass half-full of cracked ice. Top off with Champagne.