What’s the Difference between Prosecco, Spumante, Champagne & Cava?

Champagne, Prosecco and cava are among the most well-known sparkling wines and they are enjoyed all over the world. But, with the exception of price, what exactly are the differences between them? Let’s take a look…

 

Champagne

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Although many people refer to any sparkling wine as Champagne, only those made in the Champagne region of France can be called Champagne and it is be made in accordance with some strict guidelines. For example, it must be made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier or Chardonnay grapes (or as a blend of the three), and should also be made according to the “méthode champenoise”, which was invented by Dom Perignon – the namesake to one of Champagne’s most famous brands.

One characteristic of Champagne is that it is made by adding yeast and sugar to a wine base so that it can be bottled for a crucial second fermentation. During this somewhat lengthy process, the bottle is tipped so that the sediment that results from the fermentation (called the “lees”) collects in the bottle neck for removal before corking.

Thanks to the long fermentation, Champagne is associated with complex and rich flavour notes, including biscuit, toasted brioche and toffee.

 

Prosecco

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Prosecco is a sparkling Italian wine that has recently become very popular, even rivalling Champagne in popularity. It is made in the Veneto region of Italy (the region that’s home to Venice and Verona) and is typically prepared from Glera grapes.

Aside from the variety of grape, Prosecco is also very different to Champagne in how it is made as the second fermentation, which is done in the bottle for Champagne, is performed in large steel tanks for Prosecco. As well as reducing the cost, this also affects the flavour of Prosecco, which is considered to be lighter than Champagne with hints of fruit and light flowers.

With regards to Italian sparkling wines, it gets a little more complicated as you may well see the words “Frizzante” or “Spumante” on your bottle of Italian fizz. They are used essentially to describe how bubbly your bubbly is. “Frizzante” is used to describe wines that are gently sparkling, such as Prosecco (although not always), while “Spumante” is used for fully sparkling wines, such as Asti.

 

Cava

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So, what about Cava? This sparkling wine is Spain’s offering and is made from several grape varieties, including Macabeu, Parellada, Xarello, Chardonnay or Pinot.

Although it is much cheaper than Champagne, its production process (called “méthode traditionnelle”) is similar, with the second fermentation process taking place in the bottle. However, while Champagne bottles are traditionally tipped by hand during a lengthy fermentation, Cava bottles are tipped mechanically, which in part explains the difference in price. Mechanical tipping of the bottles also means that the wine doesn’t sit on the lees for as long, which causes Cava to have a lighter taste with notes of citrus and melon.

 

It, of course, doesn’t stop there as there are many other sparkling wines, including English sparkling wines, Franciacorta (a Champagne-like Italian sparkling wine) and Crémant de Luxembourg. In general, other sparkling wines are not made to any specific production process or using a specific grape type, which means that you can find extensive variety in both price and flavour.

If you love fine wine and want to combine your passion with a holiday in Italy, why not take a look at our wine-tasting experiences in Italy. We offer wine tours of the Prosecco Hills, as well as the Chianti region and Trento.

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