Have you ever had a drink that just carries with it an aura of sophistication? On its own, it has a gentle, sweet taste enhanced by a bubbly presentation that’s sure to light up the room.
It’s a European beverage delicacy, and not only is it good by itself, but it’s also useful in a few brunch-time cocktails.
Here’s the question: is this describing champagne or Prosecco?
Both of these drinks offer an exquisite flavor that can’t be rivaled, but they are often confused for one another even though each has its own distinct preparation and background.
As a result, you may find yourself picking up the wrong bottle of bubbly for those special occasions in your life.
Luckily, this guide will help you figure out the difference between champagne and Prosecco so that you can impress your friends, family, and patrons.
The Main Difference Between Prosecco and Champagne
Both Prosecco and champagne are sparkling wines, which is a wine that features carbon dioxide to give them a distinct fizzy appearance and mouth feel.
Both are also around 12% ABV, making them above most beers and lower than spirits in terms of alcohol level. On the surface, they would appear to be interchangeable.
However, the biggest difference between Prosecco and Champagne is where they originated from and are celebrated.
Champagne is derived from the Champagne region of France, while Prosecco comes from Veneto, Italy. As you’ll see, this geographical distinction makes a huge difference in the end product and how they accompany many of your favorite drinks.
Prosecco vs. Champagne: An In-Depth Look
To truly figure out the difference between Prosecco and Champagne, you need to look at three key factors: their ingredients, their flavor profiles, and their uses in popular cocktails and mixed drinks.
When considering the exact ingredients for both Prosecco and Champagne, it’s important to note the origins of each wine to explain why they are chosen, especially by governing bodies.
Prosecco comes from Northeastern Italy, which hosts the notable Prosecco grape (or Glera grape as its modern nomenclature). This neutral white grape is the base for this tasty sparkling wine.
To be considered a legitimate Prosecco, the drink must be comprised of at least 85% Glera grapes during production. The other 15% can be a combination of other red and white wine grapes including Pinot Bianco, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay.
The ratio of these additional grapes can be felt later on in the tasting process.
To give Prosecco its bubbly nature, the batch is put through a process called the Charmat method, or “tank method.” The product undergoes a second fermentation process in contained tanks that capture the carbon dioxide created from the yeast and sugar combination.
Finally, the wine is filtered, bottled, and pressured for distribution. After opening, you may notice the effervescence immediately, a sign of a successful Charmat method and a good bottle of Prosecco.
By contrast, Champagne is produced in its namesake region of France. Like Prosecco, there are certain appellation rules that it must follow for it to be considered legitimate.
For Champagne, this includes predominant grape varieties like Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. Four others have been introduced into the Chardonnay lexicon: the Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Arbane, and Petit Meslier.
Champagne’s bubbles are also added through a second fermentation process like the Prosecco with yeast and sugar. However, where the process differs is where this fermentation takes place, with Champagne having the carbonation appear in the bottle instead of tanks.
To trap the dead yeast cells, the bottles are left in racks neck down with the necks subsequently frozen and resealed, ready to age for anywhere between eighteen months to three years and beyond.
Due to this rigorous creation process (along with its longstanding notoriety among wine drinkers), Champagne is the more expensive of the two sparkling wines.
Even though there is quite a bit of crossover between Prosecco and Champagne due to their carbonation and grape selections, the proportions of the latter make a noticeable impact on their tastes.
Prosecco’s dominant grape is the Glera, with wine enthusiasts pointing out flavors of green apple and pear, along with some notes of white flowers, melon, and honeysuckle. It is a crisp, acidic wine with a dry-to-sweet spectrum.
This range goes from Extra Brut (the driest), Brut, Extra Dry, and Dry (the sweetest variety) based on the other grapes included in the production.
As you can see, Prosecco can be a very varied sparkling wine that accommodates many palates and wine experience levels.
Champagne’s taste and aroma are also impacted by the type of grapes in the batch. A Chardonnay Champagne will have a crisp, mild flavor, one with Pinot Noir grapes will carry with it earthy notes, and Pinot Meunier will have a very noticeable richness.
The bottled fermentation process creates a taste very reminiscent of bread and toast. Through both of these production methods, Champagne can have notes of cream, apple, citrus, vanilla, and a subtle nuttiness.
Yet these two drinks are not just known for their fruity and floral flavors, they’re also famous for their bubbly textures upon opening, creating a pleasant scent and a fun sensation after the first taste.
It’s this carbonation that allows Prosecco and Champagne to be featured in many mixed drinks.
If you think that Prosecco and champagne are only different because of what they’re made of and the resulting flavors, think again.
These two European sparkling wines can be the perfect mixers for a wide variety of cocktails, adding sweet and almond notes while enhancing existing fruity flavors.
Here are three cocktails that feature Prosecco and three cocktails that use Champagne:
1. Prosecco Margarita
Rim your margarita or rocks glass with lime and salt. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add 1.5 ounces of Blanco tequila, 2 ounces of lime juice, and 0.5 ounces of triple sec. Shake until well mixed. Pour into a chilled glass and top with 4 ounces of Prosecco. Garnish with lime slices.
2. Sparkling Raspberry Martini
Muddle 8 raspberries in a cocktail shaker with 2 tablespoons of white sugar. Add 2 ounces of raspberry vodka with ice. Shake until well mixed. Add 10 ounces of Prosecco into the shaker and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with additional raspberries.
3. Hugo Cocktail
In a glass with ice, add 1 ounce of St. Germain liqueur and stir. Add 3 ounces of Prosecco and 1 ounce of soda water. Garnish with fresh mint.
1. Champagne Cocktail (aka the Classic)
In a Champagne flute, add 1 sugar cube and 5 drops of Angostura bitters. Top with Champagne and garnish with a lemon twist.
In a Champagne flute, add 2 ounces of freshly squeezed orange juice. Top with chilled Champagne.
3. Sparkling Raspberry Royale
In a Champagne flute, add 1 teaspoon of raspberry liqueur. Top with Champagne and garnish with 2 raspberries.
You’ve learned about what European countries fostered Prosecco and Champagne.
You’ve discovered the stringent production method for each, including the types of grapes and fermentation methods that lead to their celebrated flavors.
You’ve also found a few cocktails along the way that utilizes the fizziness to full effect. However, if you have a few lingering questions, we have just the answers for you.
Is Prosecco Champagne or Wine?
Prosecco is similar to Champagne in that both of these drinks are sparkling wines. However, Prosecco in and of itself is not Champagne.
It is its own distinct beverage that originated in Veneto, Italy rather than the Champagne region of France.
What’s in Prosecco?
Prosecco must contain at least 85% Glera grapes due to its appellation standards.
The remaining percentage can have a mixture of other grapes, but typical Prosecco drinks feature types like Pinot Noir, Pinot Bianco, or Chardonnay. Prosecco also has a popular fizzy appearance from the carbonation produced during its second fermentation process.
What’s the difference between Brut and Prosecco?
Brut is one of many categories of sweetness vs. dryness for sparkling wines, including Prosecco.
Despite the organization appearing backward at first glance, the scale from most dry to most sweet is Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry, and Dry.
To summarize, Brut is a way to separate types of sparkling wine but it is not its own original wine like Prosecco.
So…is Champagne different from Prosecco?
The definitive statement about whether Champagne is different from Prosecco is a resounding yes.
These two sparkling wines may share some common tastes with the appearance of grapes like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
However, they contrast significantly due to their individual countries of origin, the fermentation methods to create the bubbly appearance, the overall flavor profiles, and their usage in cocktails.
Both are exceptional drinks on their own, and they are very versatile in mixed drinks no matter the time of day.