Comparing Two Very Different Sparklers
Prosecco and Champagne may be almost impossible to differentiate just by looking at a glass of each, with that pale straw colour and bubbles, but when it comes to the taste and bouquet of each, they couldn’t be more different.
In this article we'll be taking a closer look at what makes Italian sparkling Prosecco so different from its French rival.
Prosecco was once regarded as a low cost alternative to Champagne, but that is most certainly no longer the case for modern Prosecco. Major advances in production techniques and technology initiated a gigantic global sales surge and now the supermarket shelves are stacked with dozens of different wine brands all selling their own sparkling Prosecco. It now has such a strong market presence that it outsells Champagne in the UK by a large margin.
Prosecco appeals to a broader range of wine drinkers than Champagne as it is usually a lighter, more fruity experience. Champagne tends to be more of an acquired taste, favoured by sparkling wine drinkers who enjoy the less fruity, more toasty, biscuit flavour tones produced by the cooler growing region and longer ageing process.
What types of grape are used to make each of these wines?
Prosecco is most often made exclusively with a single type of grape; the Glera grape grown in the Treviso region of north eastern Italy. Some varieties of prosecco have a small percentage of other grape types in the blend but this is somewhat unusual. Champagne is made using white Chardonnay grapes or the dark-skinned Pinot noir or Pinot Meunier grapes, which produce a white base wine due to the subtle pressing of the grapes and quick removal of skins during fermentation. Rosé Champagnes are made from a blend of all three grapes.
How do the production processes for Prosecco and Champagne differ?
The production methods for the two sparklers are quite different, with Champagne taking longer to produce than Prosecco. This is one of the major reasons why a bottle of Champagne is more expensive.
Firstly, let’s take a look at the “Traditional Method” used to produce Champagne:
1) Harvesting – Grapes that are destined to be made into Champagne are generally harvested quite early in their growth cycle when sugar content is lower and acidity is higher.
2) Primary Fermentation – This part of the process is the same as for all wines. The natural sugar in the wine is allowed to turn to alcohol and the resulting carbon dioxide is allowed to escape from the liquid.
3) Secondary Fermentation –The wine is bottled before the secondary fermentation stage and yeast, with a small amount of sugar, is added to the bottle. The bottle is sealed with a temporary plug and stored horizontally in a rack.
4) Aging on the Lees – The “Lees” are the deposits of dead yeast that accumulate in the bottle during the secondary fermentation process. Non-vintage Champagnes must be allowed to age on the lees for at least 15 months before they can be sold, with many manufacturers leaving the bottles for 3 years and often longer.
5) Riddling – After being left to “age on the lees”, the bottles are then tilted in the rack to an angle of about 45 degrees to allow the lees sediment to accumulate in the neck of the bottle. This angle is gradually increased to 90 degrees over the course of 8 to 10 weeks during which the bottles are regularly turned a small amount.
6) Disgorgement – The sediment has now all gathered at the top of the bottle in the neck. Disgorgement involves freezing the small amount of liquid in the bottle where the sediment has gathered. This ice plug is then removed from the bottle and the liquid is topped up with a certain amount of sugar which determines the sweetness level of the Champagne. The bottle is then corked and the wire cage put on to keep the cork in place due to the pressure build up in the bottle.
Onto the most commonly used Prosecco production method often referred to as the “Charmat Method” named after Frenchman Eugène Charmat who pioneered the use of glazed stainless steel tanks where the secondary fermentation stage takes place.
1) Harvesting – Glera grapes are grown in north eastern Italy on low and high ground in which the level of minerals varies. These variations determine the individuality of the resulting Prosecco.
2) Primary Fermentation – The harvested grapes are gently pressed and the resulting “must” is stored in a stainless steel tank. Yeast is added to encourage the existing grape must sugars to turn to alcohol. This initial fermentation takes between 2 and 3 weeks.
3) Secondary Fermentation – The must is transferred to a pressurised stainless steel tank. Sugar and yeast are added and carbon dioxide forms in the liquid to transform it into a sparkling wine. When the wine has reached the alcohol level required it is cooled and filtered before being bottled under pressure. This part of the process takes about 4 weeks.
Prosecco can also be made using the traditional method but this results in an expensive sparkling wine and only certain brands have the customer base to facilitate good sales in the face of so much low cost competition. The overall production time for Prosecco of 6 to 8 weeks means that it is a much quicker product to get to market than Champagne and it is easier for producers to meet market demands and to price their products competitively.
What Sets Premier Estates Wine Apart From The Competition?
Now that we’ve looked at the differences between Champagne and Prosecco, let’s have a look at what puts our Prosecco ahead of our huge number of competitors. Our production team have been refining our Prosecco recipe and manufacturing process for many years. The ultimate aim for the team was to find a way of producing a very high quality Prosecco that could be priced competitively and then to prove the high product quality to potential customers.
The proof of the quality level of our Prosecco is perfectly demonstrated by the many awards that it has won over the last few years from some of the wine industry’s most respected and highly regarded awarding bodies. These awards have come from the “International Wine and Spirits Competition” (IWSC), the “International Wine Challenge” (IWC) and the “Decanter World Wine Awards”. All wines entered for these awards are blind tasted by renowned wine experts. We are very proud to have recently been awarded a silver medal by the IWSC for our Prosecco.
So, if you’re a wine fan and are partial to the odd glass of Champagne, why not try our multi award winning Prosecco? We’re sure you’ll love its light fruitiness and the feeling of celebration and decadence that comes with drinking a top quality sparkling wine.