How is Sparkling Wine Made?
Quick refresher. Grape juice turns into wine when yeast consume the sugar and leave alcohol in its place. This process also creates a gust of Carbon Dioxide (CO2), which usually just evaporates into the air. However, if you prevent the CO2 from escaping, it becomes trapped in the wine and creates the bubbles (mousse) we see and taste on our tongue.
Champagne Vs. Prosecco
Name & Location
Name protection is a forever driving force and challenge for the wine business. Champagne comes from the Champagne region of France. Only sparkling wine made from this region can lawfully be named “Champagne.” However, you may catch the name used in other countries because the brands were created before the global law took effect. For example, you may see bottles with “California Champagne” labels.
Prosecco is a grape grown in Northeast Italy. Given that sparkling wine in this region was originally named after the grape as opposed to the land, other countries quickly began using the name “Prosecco” on their sparkling labels. As such, the name of the Italian grape was changed to “Glera,” and to this day, the region still fights for the sole use of the name “Prosecco.”
Champagne: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Meunier
Champagne–Bottle: Wine from this region uses the “Traditional method” for bubbles. A base wine is added to a bottle, a mixture of wine, yeast, and nutrients are added next. The wine ferments for a second time in the sealed bottle and the CO2 is locked in to create bubbles and pressure. The dead yeast are removed after a significant period of time of mixing with the wine, and the bottle is resealed under pressure.
Prosecco–Tank: Wine from this region uses the “Tank method” for bubbles. A base wine is made in a tank, and a mixture of wine, yeast, and nutrients are added next. The wine ferments for a second time inside of the closed tank and the CO2 is locked inside to create bubbles and pressure. The dead yeast are removed from the bottle of the tank and the sparking wine is bottled and sealed under pressure.
Champagne– Apples, lemon, citrus, brioche and pastry. The bready (autolytic) notes are a result of the sparkling wine mixing with the dead yeasts over a period of time. Dead yeasts release flavors of toast, brioche, graham crackers, etc.
Prosecco– Apple, pear, peach, honeysuckle, melon. In most cases, the dead yeasts are immediately removed from the tank, so no bready flavors are created.
Champagne: Delicate, tender, fine bubbles (classy)
Proseco: Larger, frothier bubbles (in your face)
Aged Before Released
Champagne: All Champagnes must age on their dead yeast for at least 12 months. Premium versions can be aged for years before the yeast are removed.
Proseco: Most Prosecco is not aged in the tank, rather bottled for immediate consumption. However there are premium versions that are aged on the dead yeast for a period of time.
Additional Aging in Bottle
Champagne: Can age in the bottle, some for many years (take ya time)
Proseco: Aging is not recommended (pop it open now)
Champagne: Very good to outstanding. Champagne is made in a very meticulous way, from harvest, to the wine-making techniques, to traditionally hand-turning the bottles to mix the dead yeast in (riddling), and to long-term aging for bready notes.
Proseco: Acceptable to good. Prosecco is often made quickly in large volumes, with heavy machine usage.
Champagne: Premium + due to all of the careful wine-making techniques and aging before release.
Proseco: Mid-priced because these sparklers are usually made quickly and in high volume.
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