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The Difference Between Prosecco And Sparkling Wine Is Key

The difference between Prosecco and Sparkling Wine is important to understand because the more you learn about Prosecco, the more you will love drinking it.

difference between prosecco and sparkling wine - Valdobbiadene

Delicious Prosecco From Valdobbiadene

The Difference Between Prosecco And Sparkling Wine

Is Prosecco a type of grape? It used to be that the grape that made Prosecco was called Prosecco, but that changed in 2009. Italy was concerned that places like Slovenia and Australia were making wine from the same grape and calling it Prosecco, and that was viewed as a risk to the Italian Prosecco producer’s reputation. Italy wanted to protect Prosecco’s reputation, so they took steps to protect Prosecco as a place instead of a grape and changed the name of the grape to Glera

Where Is Prosecco From In Italy?

Prosecco is a wine of Controlled Designation of Origin (DOC – Denominazione di Origine Controllata) or  a Guaranteed Controlled Designation of Origin (DOCG – Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) made in the Veneto region, specifically Treviso, the subregion of Veneto in northern Italy. 

It is made from Glera grapes, with 15% other varieties allowed. Most prosecco is sparkling (spumante) or semi-sparkling (frizzante), however, there are some non-carbonated versions made but they are uncommon. The Prosecco DOC area is Italy’s largest appellation.

Which Italian Wine Region Is Famous For Prosecco?

Prosecco refers to a geographical area that includes nine provinces spread across two regions, Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia in the northeast of Italy. It includes the little town of Prosecco, from which the region got its name. This is from where Prosecco originated and the only area by law where Prosecco can be made. The Prosecco region can produce up to 600 million bottles a year, which makes it the most popular sparkling wine in the world. That’s about double what they produce in Champagne. The highest quality Prosecco is made about 40 miles from Venice, located between the cities of Valdobbiadene and Conegliano.

difference between prosecco and sparkling wine - A Glass

Would You Like A Glass of Prosecco?

Is Prosecco A Sparkling Wine?

Prosecco is a wine, of course, but there is something distinct about the wine making process that makes it Prosecco. Unlike Champagne, which uses the Champagne Method (méthode champenoise), Prosecco uses the Charmat Method to make its wine. 

To recap: 

  • Prosecco sparkling wine made in the Charmat Method
  • Prosecco is made within the Prosecco region 
  • Prosecco is made using the Glera grape

One Difference Between Prosecco And Sparkling Wine Is The Charmat Method Of Production

The Charmat Method was invented by Italian Frederico Martinotti in 1895, but it was implemented by a man named Eugene Charmat in 1907. Italians, preferring not to give a Frenchman any credit, also call this the Tank Method, the Bulk Method, the Cuve Close or the Martinotti Method

It is a five-step method that is all completed in large pressurized tanks:

  1. The wine undergoes primary fermentation in stainless steel vats. This creates a low alcohol, fruity, aromatic still wine. 
  2. The wine is put into a stainless steel tank for secondary fermentation. Yeast and sugar is added to induce secondary fermentation, lasting up to 12 months.
  3. The wine is cooled to stop fermentation and filtered under pressure into another tank. 
  4. Sugar is added and this determines how sweet or not sweet your final wine will be. 
  5. The wine is bottled under pressure into individual bottles.

The Production Of Prosecco vs. Champagne

People use Champagne and Prosecco interchangeably but they are very different, the biggest being the production methods used. The Charmat Method occurs entirely in tanks and the Champagne Method occurs in individual bottles. The Champagne Method requires a lot more time and energy in the cellar resulting in a higher cost. Entry-level but decent Champagne costs around $40 and the price for top tier Champagnes is almost limitless. Good Prosecco can cost $15 bucks in the US and for $40 you can get top of the line Prosecco.

Prosecco should be drunk fairly young, within 12 month of bottling. Other wines that use the Charmat method include Lambrusco (Italy) and Sekt (Germany).

Characteristic Difference Between Prosecco And Sparkling Wine

As mentioned, the Glera grape is the main grape of Prosecco, but Italian law allows for 15% of the wine to contain other grapes. Glera traces its roots back to the Ancient Romans, which makes it one of the oldest grapes still being grown today.

difference between prosecco and sparkling wine - Bubbles

Deliciously Chilled Bubbles

Glera is a semi-aromatic grape variety that makes wines that are full of the fruity flavors of yellow apples, pears, white peach, apricots, honeydew and citrus. There are also floral notes like white flowers, elder flowers, honeysuckle and lily.

Prosecco is fairly low in alcohol, with a light body and high acidity. This helps to keep Prosecco crisp and refreshing. Most of the Prosecco that you find will be sparkling (almost 90%), it’s sometimes made slightly less carbonated (frizzante) and you might even find a non-carbonated (tranquillo) version.

How To Serve Prosecco

You can buy cheap, low quality Prosecco in the US that should only be used in mixed drinks. One of the popular ways to enjoy cheap Prosecco is in a mimosa, which is half Prosecco and half orange juice. While this is a delicious drink often enjoyed early in the morning, it certainly covers up the taste of the Prosecco, so only cheap wine should be used. I am using the word cheap intentionally, because Prosecco is generally less expensive than say, Champagne, but there is lower quality (cheap) and higher quality.

My favorite way to enjoy Prosecco is in a Spritz. It’s delightful, but also an important part of Italian culture and lifestyle. The time to enjoy a Spritz is called aperitivo, when you get together with friends and family about 11:30AM (less common) or 5:30PM (more common) and you enjoy a Spritz with some snacks before your main meal.

difference between prosecco and sparkling wine - Campari

Campari Always Pairs With Prosecco

Can You Pair Aperol And Prosecco?

The Spritz i’s a classic Italian cocktail. It’s a third of Prosecco, a third of sparkling water and a third of bitters. The bitters can be Aperol, Campari or my new favorite from Venice: Select. It is served over ice and usually has a slice of orange added to it.

Quality Classifications Of Prosecco DOC

There are four quality and geographic classifications of wine in Italy: VdT, IGT, DOC and DOCG defined by the Italian government. The top two, DOC and DOCG, which I mentioned above, stand for Denominazione di Origine Controllata and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita. These indications are on bottles of wine in Italy, for example: Chianti DOCG and Valpolicella DOC. There are around 329 DOCs in Italy and 74 DOCGs. 

To be considered a DOC wine you have to follow certain rules. Requirements include:

  • From what area the grapes can come

  • What grape varietals are allowed and in what percentages

  • The alcohol levels, yields and viticultural techniques that are used

  • The aging techniques that are used

  • Others

These DOCG rules are even more strict. The yields have to be even lower, the geographic area from where the wine comes is usually smaller and a tasting panel actually has to approve the DOCG status. 

Prosecco has a pyramid of DOC and DOCG classifications. They go up in quality the higher you go. DOC Prosecco is entry level grown primarily on the flatlands. Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore is the most well known Prosecco DOCG and it originates in the area between the towns of Valdobbiadene and Conegliano. This is the area of the highest quality Prosecco because of the grapes, sun exposure, soil types, elevation and vine age.The sloped vineyards are difficult to work and have to be hand-harvested. And the top of the classification pyramid, wines that originate in only about 264 specific acres can be called the Grand Cru of Prosecco.

Is Prosecco Dry Or Sweet?

Sparkling wines tend to be extremely acidic and a little bit of sugar could go a long way in making a sparkling wine more balanced. A lot of times when the sugar is added to the sparkling wine it is almost imperceptible. It doesn’t make the wine sweet, it only balances the acidity and makes a smoother wine. Most sparkling wine all over the world follows the same labeling rules , but the words used are a bit counterintuitive. For example, in increasing sweetness:

difference between prosecco and sparkling wine - Brut

Brut Prosecco from Valdobbiadene

  • Brut Nature wines are bone dry
  • Extra Brut can be slightly sweeter but it is still incredibly dry
  • Brut will probably taste very dry
  • Extra Dry surprisingly means a little sweet
  • Dry actually means a little more sweet
  • Demi-sec is getting more noticeably sweet
  • Doux are definitely dessert wines

With Prosecco, you’ll typically only see them labeled as BrutExtra Dry and Dry, because Prosecco is already fairly fruity. 

A Difference Between Prosecco And Sparkling Wine Is How Special It Is

A quote from Italian writer Beppe Severgnini from his book: Neoitaliani: Un Manifesto:

“Prosecco has become the hallmark of the late afternoon, as cappuccino is the Italian morning mark (after eleven we consider it immoral; after a meal, illegal). Prosecco is ubiquitous. A form of liquid democracy that unites different generations. It is also the basis for Spritz, a very popular aperitif born in Veneto. It consists of prosecco, Aperol or Campari, and a splash of seltzer (the name derives from the German verb spritzen, “to sprinkle”).”

If you enjoyed this post about the difference between Prosecco and sparkling wine and are interested in learning more about cocktails, wine and beer culture in Italy, check out some of these other related posts:

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