We love sparkling wine, but it can be difficult to make sense of it all. Is all sparkling wine Champagne, or is all Champagne sparkling wine? Or neither? Or both? What is Cava and where does it come from? Is Prosecco a region or a grape? There are many questions, and they’re all valid. Today we will try to clear things up a little by comparing surely the world’s three favourite sparkling wines: Prosecco, Cava and Champagne.
Prosecco, Cava and Champagne: Are they the same?
Wine in general can be confusing. Sparkling wine is no exception, as there are many misconceptions out there. For example, a lot of people refer to all sparkling wine as “Champagne”. This is not correct. However all Champagne is sparkling wine, true enough. Yet it is only one type of sparkling wine from one specific region, and not all sparkling wine is Champagne. This comes down to a legal designation of place, as well as other factors including the region of origin, grape variety, production methods, taste and price!
Regions of Origin:
- Prosecco comes from the Veneto region in Italy. Some of the best examples come from the Conlegiano Valdobiadenne hills.
- Cava is mostly from the Catalonia region of Spain.
- Champagne must legally come from the Champagne region in France. There are many different villages and subdivisions within the region, though all the wine carries the “Champagne” designation. This is a legally protected indication of geographical status, a French Appellation d’Origine Protegée much like “Bordeaux” and “Chablis”.
- Prosecco is produced with the Glera grape, which is sometimes also referred to as “Prosecco”.
- Cava can contain a number of different grapes, most notably Macabeo, Parellada and Xarello.
- Champagne can contain Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, in varying quantities and permutations. “Blanc de Blancs” Champagne will be 100% Chardonnay, while “Blanc de Noirs” can contain Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
- Prosecco is made using the “tank” or “Charmat” method, whereby secondary fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks.
- Cava and Champagne are both produced with a secondary fermentation in the bottle. Though the process is the same, the terminology used is different. In Champagne, they refer to it as the “Champagne” or “Champenoise” method. For legal reasons and a respect of appellation regulations, the same method when used outside of Champagne (such as when producing Cava) is called the “traditional method” or “Methode Traditionelle”. If you see this terminology on a wine label, you will know that the wine has undergone secondary fermentation in-bottle like a Champagne, though invariably will come from another region.
- Prosecco at its best will have fruity and floral aromas with light and frothy bubbles and notes of fresh tropical fruit. Generally speaking Prosecco will be lighter in body than Cava or Champagne.
- Cava and Champagne can vary widely in their flavour profiles. For the most part they will both have a finer mousse (bubbles) than Prosecco and be more substantial in terms of weight and mouthfeel. There is plenty of rosé Cava and Champagne that will have a lot of bright red fruit flavours and refreshing acidity. Older, vintage examples will exhibit bready, yeasty or brioche notes.
Champagne, Cava and Prosecco Price Comparison:
Champagne is expensive, there’s no denying that. You can expect to pay a lot more for a bottle of bubbly from this part of France than you would for a Cava or Prosecco. You can get good (or even great) Champagne without breaking the bank, though. Some of the larger houses produce non-vintage cuvées that are of a consistently great quality, Moët & Chandon Brut Imperial being a classic example. This stuff is not cheap, but it is guaranteed to please.
Prosecco has become a supermarket favourite in large part due to its wallet-friendly prices. However, be warned: You will rarely get the complexity and depth here that you would get from a Champagne. For a compromise that still offers value and quality, look to a vintage Cava such as Rimarts Gran Reserva 2011. Here you’ll get a relatively complex sparkler with some age, a step up in quality from an average Prosecco and a fraction of the price of a vintage Champagne!
Read more about the differences between Cava and Champagne here.