If you could look through a Valdobbiadene vineyard keyhole, what would you see? Perhaps the secret to what makes Prosecco so much less expensive than Champagne?
If you just dropped by to see today’s Italy Pic of the Day, THANK YOU! I had fun this week in Prosecco country and I hope you did too. If you’re up for a little Prosecco vs Champagne comparison for beginners, read on!
What follows is my nonindustry, nonprofessional, yet highly experienced drinker’s journey to understanding the difference between Champagne and Prosecco.
Champagne vs Prosecco
Aside from taste which is always subjective, the difference between Prosecco and Champagne boils down to four simple things. Region, grape, production process, and price. Before our trip to Veneto I already knew Champagne can only be called Champagne if it’s made in the Champagne region in northeastern France. What I didn’t know? Since 2009 Prosecco can only be called Prosecco if it is made in Veneto in northeastern Italy.
I’ll be honest, I felt somewhat silly when Paolo pointed this out to me on our trip. Still, simple enough. Champagne is from Champagne. Prosecco is from Prosecco. Got it! Well unless you’re an Aussie but that’s another story entirely!
With Prosecco, things started to get a bit more complex at the province level.
Prosecco Regions in Italy
This is not information I’ll be spouting from memory anytime soon. One nugget of info that’s a bit easier to commit to memory is the grape Prosecco is made from.
Grape Used to Make Prosecco
Glera is the grape used to make Prosecco. Short, sweet, simple. That I can remember! Here’s a photo of Glera grapes from the vine tunnel we walked through in Valdobbiadene.
Beautiful aren’t they! It’s so much easier for me to remember details about wines when I’ve stood between their vines!
Here’s another fun fact. To be called Prosecco a wine must be at least 85% Glera. The remaining 15% usually comes from Verdiso, Bianchetta Trevigiana, Perera, Glera Lunga, Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Grigio. While Champagne is a blend of thirds from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay with minor grapes include Petit Meslier, Arbanne, and Pinot Blanc.
So here’s what I find funny. Of all of those grapes, the only consistent one between Champagne and Prosecco is Chardonnay. Even then it’s a minor grape in Prosecco and a major grape in Champagne. So what gives? Why are Champagne and Prosecco pitted against each other so often. The bubbles!
How Prosecco & Champagne Are Made Bubbly
Before our trip, I knew Champagne bubbles are created during the second round of bottle fermentation when yeast is added. What I did’t know? Prosecco carbonation comes from steel vats fermentation. Large batch fermentation means less time, less expensive production, and therefore a lower price. This explains why Champagne starts around $40 a bottle, but Prosecco starts around $12. Simple, I felt like I had it except… there’s beautiful Valdobbiadene again.
Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG come from a subzone in Valdobbiadene called Cartizze. Since 1969 Cartizze has had it’s own set of regulations and you guessed it, uses bottle fermentation like Champagne.
It’s at this point in my wine lovers’ journey where I threw my hands up and drank a glass of Prosecco. If my head is going to spin I better at least get to enjoy some Prosecco first!
So this, my dear friends is as far as I’ve gotten in learning about Prosecco. How about you? Which do you prefer Champagne or Prosecco?