Champagne, Sparkling Wine, Prosecco – What’s the Difference?
Each of these varieties presents lovely bubbles and a fizzy mouth-feel that can lift any celebration, so what separates Champagne, Sparkling wine and Prosecco? For the most part, it comes down to where the wines are produced and laws surrounding the use of the names. Probably not the explanation you were expecting, but settle in and we promise to reveal a few fun facts that will help you make informed choices regarding bubbly. And who knows, there could be questions about it in next week’s pub trivia.
Champagne is renowned for being the finest go-to sparkling wine at times of celebration. From weddings and New Year’s celebrations, to podium finishes and graduations, Champagne is the ideal party-starter. It can be made from one of three grape varieties; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – all originally grown within the famed ‘Champagne region’ of northern France.
The Champagne industry is highly regulated with winemakers adhering to strict production guidelines involving growing, yield and méthode champenoise – Champagne is always sold in the same bottle in which it undergoes secondary fermentation. The best vintages will spend at least 3 years on lees. Non-vintage Champagne (NV) still spends a minimum of 15 months on lees.
What’s in a Name?
Champagne is often used as a generic term to describe sparkling wine, although over a decade ago, the European Union pushed for tighter controls regarding their wines, meaning other wine-producing nations could no longer use names such as Port, Sherry and Champagne.
Today, it’s illegal to label any product as Champagne unless it comes from the Champagne wine region of France. Technically speaking, Australian winemakers produce Sparkling wine.
Even though Aussie bubbly is made using the same grapes, same methods and possesses the same bubbles and fizz as its French counterpart, we produce Sparkling wine. But don’t worry, it’s just as great as what’s produced overseas and often comes with a more appealing price tag.
Winemakers can adopt more cost-effective methods of producing Sparkling, yet the best examples continue the tradition of méthode Champenoise, or Méthode Traditionelle as we often call it in Australia. Most Australian Sparkling wine producers will make a Non-Vintage each year that’s blended across vintages to produce a consistent product perfect for fans to celebrate with a label they know and love.
What’s interesting is even with our vast range of Sparkling, Aussies drink more Champagne per capita than any other nationality outside of Europe.
Tasmania and the Yarra Valley are championing Sparkling whites with international award-winning examples coming out of both regions. It’s the cooler climate regions that tend to produce the best with the Macedon Ranges, Grampians, Adelaide Hills and Tumbarumba all producing Sparkling to elevate your next celebration.
In Australia, Sparkling white wine is most commonly made using Chardonnay grapes to create bubbly that’s medium-bodied and dry, often possessing fruit-forward flavours of peach, apple, grapefruit and melon.
Josef Chromy Sparkling NV
It took Josef Chromy Wines just five years to amass over 15 Trophies and 260 medals, and when you experience the quality of this Tasmanian Sparkling, you’ll see why they’re so acclaimed.
Experience an elegant, yet complex mix of white melon and mushroom aromas over honeydew melon and apple flavours. The powder-soft yet bright acid precision and length make this Sparkling a great choice alongside natural oysters drizzled with lemon.
Shiraz is by far the most widely made Sparkling red variety in Australia. However, Merlot, Durif and Cabernet Sauvignon are all on the rise. Sparkling Reds are typically very ripe and juicy, relying on fruit characters combined with sweetness to achieve their impact. Unlike traditional red wine, Sparkling reds are quite refreshing when served chilled.
You can find Sparkling reds coming out of the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and Rutherglen among others.
Hesketh The Black Cuvée Sparkling Shiraz NV
Barossan winemaker Hesketh has produced a showstopper with this Sparkling Shiraz. It’s plush and juicy with a sweet core of dark, plummy fruit, with a smooth, creamy texture and great length. Like a classic Shiraz, pair this Sparkling with a juicy red meat favourite.
What about Prosecco?
The most famous of Italy’s Sparkling wines, Prosecco takes its name from a village in the north of the country, and it’s close to overtaking Champagne as the world’s most loved Sparkling wine. Prosecco comes from the Glera grape, and is made using secondary fermentation and is bottled under pressure. This results in a lower alcohol wine driven by bright fruit and acidity rather than the savouriness of Champagne.
Prosecco is characterised by flavours of white peach, pear and citrus. You can also get floral notes of jasmine and hints of pistachio nut.
Prosecco is relatively new to the Australian wine scene with the first vines planted back in 1999 in Victoria’s King Valley, which remains the hotbed of Prosecco production today. The region’s cool climate and high elevation provide the perfect climate for the grapes to thrive. Outside of the King Valley, Prosecco is planted sparingly with Adelaide Hills and Hilltops in NSW being the other prominent regions.
Risky Business Prosecco NV
Hailing from Margaret River, the Mediterranean climate and expert winemaking have helped produce a Prosecco that gives the Italian style a run for its money. Experience pear, lemon and apple aromas over a savoury mix of white fruit flavours, a slight layer of nutty complexity and velvety mouth-feel. Enjoy a bottle with a classic antipasto.
The Name Game
For two decades, the name Prosecco has been a source of contention. The European Union has designated it a wine of origin, meaning the name is reserved for wines coming from Northern Italy. Except, Australia can still legally use the name Prosecco for wines sold down under. Any wines exported must bear the name of the grape - Glera.
So, What’s the Difference?
Champagne and Sparkling mainly differ through origin and name. Champagne is still incredibly popular and the go-to when celebrating in luxury, but we think Aussie Sparkling is just as delicious and refined. Prosecco is produced using different methods and offers a lighter drinking experience than its bubbly brothers. Whichever style you prefer, a bottle or two is bound to kick-start a great night.
With this knowledge, you’re more than ready to explore our complete range of Champagne, Aussie Sparkling and Prosecco!