A very commonly asked question is ‘what is the difference between Champagne, Cava and Prosecco?’ and out of these drinks, ‘which is better?’ To help answer this question, in this blog we will take a look at the difference between these three popular types of sparkling wine.
One of the most important factors regarding these three wine types is the region in which they are produced. Each of these wines are only allowed to be dubbed ‘Champagne’, ‘Prosecco’ or ‘Cava’ if they are made in the specific area with which that name is associated.
Champagne, from the French region of Champagne, is by far the most specific and protective of this rule, with legal ramifications in place for anyone attempting to call a wine not made in this region ‘Champagne’. Prosecco can be called as such if it has been produced in Veneto or Friuli, which are regions located in the North-East of Italy. Likewise, Cava refers to wine produced in regions in Spain, in particular, Catalonia.
Champagne, Cava and Prosecco are each produced using different grape varietals. Champagne is made up of a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, creating a fresh and fruity sip. Cava contains a blend of Xarello, Parellada and Macabeo grapes, presenting fresh, zesty and floral notes. Prosecco is made from Glera, a lighter-bodied grape that offers fragrant, floral aromas.
The method used for making sparkling wine differs from the technique used for still wines. The traditional process for making a bottle of bubbly, known simply as the ‘traditional method’ for Cava, or ‘Champenoise’ for making Champagne, involves creating a still wine and then bottling it with yeast and sugar, which will form bubbles when left to ferment. This can be a fairly costly method, as it involves additional ingredients and further time spent producing and fermenting the wine.
Prosecco, on the other hand, uses a technique known as the ‘Tank Method’ or ‘Charmat Method’, which is often seen as being far simpler and cheaper than the traditional method for making bubbles. Rather than adding extra flavours and ingredients to the wine, still wine will be left to ferment within a pressurised tank.
Different ageing times are also required for each of these different wine types. Champagne needs the longest time for ageing, with a minimum of fifteen months required to gain the best flavours and aromas. Cava needs a little less time, but should still be aged for at least nine months. The shorter ageing time for Cava typically means that it will be less expensive than Champagne. As both of these wine types have had yeast added to them, it needs to be left to age so that extra flavours can develop properly. Prosecco, which has not had any additional ingredients added, does not have a minimum ageing need and will taste best the sooner you drink it!
Due to a combination of the varietals used, winemaking techniques and ageing times, these three sparkling wines will present with different looking bubbles. The bubbles in a glass of Champagne will be persistent and very fine looking due to the high pressure it is kept at while ageing for a long time. Similarly, Cava will present persistent and fine bubbles. Created using a different technique, Prosecco is typically light and frothy with bigger and less persistent bubbles.
Which of these three sparkling wines do you have most of in your wine cabinet?