No, it’s not a stupid question.
I had someone ask me why prosecco was going to cost them $14 while the cheapest champagne was $50. I get that – they’re both bubbly and can make you dance on a table within a few glasses so why pay extra for one? Here’s some of the reasons why:
First up, Champagne comes from the Champagne region of France, and literally nowhere else can make a sparkling wine and call it champagne.
Prosecco, meanwhile, is from Italy. Just to make things confusing though, some places (like Australia) can still legally make a sparkling and call it prosecco; you can assume this will be in the same Italian style. (For the sake of this post, I’ll focus on the “original” – Prosecco DOC from north-east Italy.)
Champagne uses Traditional Method (or méthode traditionelle), which is expensive and time-consuming. The wine is left to develop complex and yeasty flavours in its bottle for at least 18 months, then it’s slowly rotated upside down; if this is done by hand, it takes about 8 weeks. each bottle has it’s neck frozen and the top is popped off, a little extra wine and sugar added then it’s corked. Often the wine will be a few years old by the time it’s consumed.
Prosecco uses Tank Method, which means the sparkling wine is produced within a couple of weeks – all in a tank – then put into the bottles. This way, the wine will be more fruity and fresh – intended to be drunk young.
Champagne can use Chardonnay, Pinot noir, or Pinot Meunier – usually, it’s a blend of them all. If they use 100% Chardonnay, it will be called Blanc de Blanc; while if they only use Pinot Noir and/ or Pinot Meunier it will be called Blanc de Noir.
Prosecco uses a grape called Glera – in the past, it was actually called Prosecco, but it was changed to protect the integrity of the regions producing it.
Taste – who wins?
Pretty important to consider really. Just because champagne takes longer to make and is more expensive it tastes better, right? Not necessarily. There really is no right and wrong here and totally up to what you prefer.
Prosecco is more fruity and fresh, and generally sweeter. While Champagne has this fruitiness, it also has yeasty characters – think toast or bread. Champagne also tends to be more rich and complex.
While admittedly I’m a champagne kinda gal, many people new to wine or sparkling may not actually enjoy it as much as the light and delicious prosecco – and that’s totally fine. Plus, if you sneak upwards to the higher price points, you’ll actually find some pretty mean prosecco with finesse and complexity too!