Champagne, Prosecco, Cava, what is the difference?

Sunday November 27th

This is your route to finding the way to Champagne, enjoying it and staying with it.

How they are produced…

Champagne’s Methode Champenoise process has strict regulations that require non-vintage varietals to be aged ‘on the lees’ in the bottle for at least 15 months. This means that the Champagne is kept in the bottle with the sediment that forms, while it’s gradually turned and inverted until it’s time for the lees, or sediment, to be removed. Vintage Champagne, meanwhile, must be aged in cellars for three years or more before ‘disgorgement’, or the removal of the ‘lees’, or solidified sediment, that gathers in the bottleneck.

Cava, made using the ‘Metoda Tradicional’, is formed from a blend of several types of wine but like Champagne, is also allowed to go through its second fermentation in the bottle. The process takes nine months.

For Prosecco, the Italian Charmat method is applied. Secondary fermentation takes place in steel enamel-covered tanks rather than in the individual bottles and the resulting fizz is then bottled under pressure in a continuous process.

Where they are produced…

Champagne is produced in the Champagne region of France only. Its production is governed by strict rules and only sparklers made in the region of Champagne using local grapes may be labelled as such. Other regions do produce notable sparkling wines, often referred to as Cremant and also some of the vin pétillant.

The region of Catalunya in Spain is where Cava is produced. Freixenet and Codorniu dominate the market but there are many smaller wineries making fine fizz from the traditional varieties Macabeu, Parellada and Xarel·lo.

Italy is responsible for the phenomenon that is Prosecco, which, in 2013, edged ahead of Champagne in terms of bottle sold around the world (307 million versus 304 million respectively). The less complicated production process results in a softer, more approachable, ‘off-dry’ wine.

What they taste like…

Champagne is made using two to three varieties blended in a process called assemblage: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. In Cava, native Spanish grapes Macabeu, Parellada and Xarello are used, while Prosecco is made using just one grape – Glera.  Generally speaking, the difference in taste is, Prosecco is lighter and slightly sweeter than Champagne. Cava is normally drier than Prosecco – on a par with Champagne – but is arguably less complex without the depth of flavour and distinctive ‘biscuity’ notes. While Champagne is good for all occasions, Cava is usually drunk after dinner and paired with Spanish sweets, such as turron. Prosecco, meanwhile, is often enjoyed as an aperitif as well as during meals or with dessert. Both Cava and Prosecco are best enjoyed during the first three years. All should be served chilled in an ice bucket filled with water and ice for about half an hour.

While Champagne is so called because of the region in which it’s made, similar methods are used in the manufacture of Cava and Prosecco – but there are crucial differences that set Champagne apart from the rest.