Champagne, Prosecco, Cava. Who wins?

Finally the answer to one of the questions on wine most searched online: What’s the difference between Champagne, Prosecco and Cava? Which one is better?

The most important ones are laid bare in this blog post. And if you want to spot the difference first hand, we also suggest wines widely available for you to try and see the difference for yourself.


 
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First things first. Only sparkling wine made in the French region of Champagne can be called Champagne. Not that want to be picky about it, but the French are highly protective of the very valuable brand they have developed with Champagne, and have made sure with legal means that no one else can use their name.

Now, that's the first thing people ask so we got that out of the way. But the differences don't end here...

 
 

The Detailed Story

Digging deeper, the three most common sparkling wines - Champagne, Prosecco and Cava - differ from each other in many ways.

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The Area

First of all, the regions where they come from is very specific. Exactly like Champagne, all of them can only carry their name if they come from specific areas:

Cava: from few regions in Spain, and most importantly from Catalonia.

Prosecco: from the North-Eastern Italian regions of Veneto and Friuli.

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The Grapes

The three are made from different grapes.

Champagne: a blend of Pinot Noir (for body), Pinot Meunier (for fruitiness), and Chardonnay (for freshness).

Cava: a blend of Xarello (for body), Macabeu (for its lemony and floral aromas), and Parellada (for freshness).

Prosecco: made with the light-bodied, fragrant, and floral grape Glera.

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The Technique

Champagne and Cava: made with the so-called Traditional Method (aka Champenoise in Champagne), a costly technique that includes first making a normal still wine and then bottling it with the addition of yeasts and sugars to cause a second fermentation that creates the bubbles.

Prosecco: made with the simpler and cheaper Tank Method (aka Charmat Method). The still wine in this case is put in a pressurised tank where the second fermentation takes place.

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The Ageing

Champagne: minimum 15 months - the highest among the three.

Cava: usually 9 months (one of the things that make it cheaper).

Champagne and Cava get the extra benefit of ageing on the yeasts, which adds extra flavours.

Prosecco: no minimum requirements The earlier you drink it, the better!

Prosecco is a pure reflection of the Glera grape aromas.

Most Champagnes are sold as “Non-Vintage” and the year of harvest doesn’t show anywhere on the label. Such Champagnes blend a combination of wines from different years.

A vintage Champagne instead is a blend of wines from a specific year and is only produced if the harvest has been of good enough quality.
— Wine Fact
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The Bubbles

Thanks to different winemaking techniques and ageing, the three end up having different kind of bubbles.

Champagne: the finest and most persistent, thanks to the higher pressure at which it's aged.

Cava: fine and persistent.

Prosecco: light, frothy, bigger, and less persistent.

You pick your style!

Sparkling wines are generally sold with 5 to 6 atmospheres of pressure in the bottle, almost twice the pressure of a car tyre!
— Wine Fact
 

 

see for yourself

Here are a couple of suggestions of wines widely available at major wine shops and supermarkets to try the difference first hand.

For a good quality NV champagne there are a good few to choose from. For a family owned company Pol Roger White Foil NV is hard to beat. At supermarket level Waitrose own label Champagne is great value.

Good Cava is difficult to spot as the market is flooded with cheaper and lower quality ones. A safer bet is to focus on the Reservas and Gran Reservas that are aged longer (15 and 30 months respectively), and are made from the best batches of grape harvested.

Prosecco is also graded into different quality levels. Look for ‘Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG' for the best quality, or at least for ‘Valdobbiadene’ which is nearly as good. A good example of a top Prosecco is the Villa Sandi Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG Millesimato.

 

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