Know your sparkling wine

Prosecco and champagne are popular sparkling wines that have more similarities than differences. While both styles of sparkling wine can produce rosé sparkling wines, Prosecco rosé was only approved in May 2020. Prosecco and champagne are both made from still wine that has undergone a second fermentation to produce the CO₂ that makes them sparkle. Furthermore, the two methods of production produce wines with very different flavour profiles.

Photo by Alexander Naglestad on Unsplash

Prosecco

Prosecco is made from the Glera grape variety and hails from Veneto in Northern Italy. The ‘tank method’ is most commonly used in prosecco production for fermentation. The second fermentation occurs in a large tank with yeast and sugars added to the base wine during the process. The tank is sealed while the wine is second fermenting to prevent CO₂ from escaping and making the wine fizzy before it is bottled and sealed. Because there is less contact during the second fermentation, the yeast has less of an impact on the tank-method prosecco. As a result, the flavour of prosecco is dominated by the fruit profile of the Glera grape, which includes pear, apple, honeysuckle, and floral notes.

Champagne

Champagne is made in France’s Champagne region from a blend or single varietal of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. The Champenoise method is the traditional method in which the second fermentation occurs within the bottle after yeast and sugars are added. When the fermentation is finished, the bottles are left tipped, neck down, in racks, and the dead yeast cells accumulate in the neck. When the bottleneck is ready, it is frozen, and the dead yeast cells are released through a process known as ‘disgorgement.’ The wine is then resealed and set aside to mature. Vintage wines must be aged for at least three years, while non-vintage wines must be aged for at least 18 months. The champagne method produces more autolytic flavours, such as bread, brioche, toast, and citrus fruit, due to the closer contact with the yeast.

Choosing between champagne and prosecco

The legendary champagne versus prosecco debate has no clear winner. Sparkling wines of both types have distinct flavours, carbonation, aromas, and tastes.

The sparkle’s sweetness

  • The International Sparkling Wine Scale can be used to grade most sparkling wines, including champagne, cava, prosecco, and sparkling wine. However, not all sparkling wines are made in every classification, which is primarily determined by whether the category has rules, the winemaker, or the suitability of the grape.
  • Brut Zero, Ultra Brut, Pas Dosé, and Dosage Zéro are other names for Brut Nature. This sparkling wine is bone dry to the taste and has a residual sugar content of 0 – 3 g/l. It is the least sweet of the sparkling wines and proseccos.
  • Extra Brut has a residual sugar content of 0 – 6 g/l and tastes very dry.
  • With 0 – 12 g residual sugar, Brut is dry to the palate.
  • Extra Dry, also known as Extra Sec or Extra Seco, has a residual sugar content of 12 – 17 g/l and is medium dry or dry with a hint of sweetness to the taste.
  • Secco is a dry, also known as Sec, with a residual sugar content of 17-32 g/l and is medium-sweet.
  • The residual sugar content of Demi-Sec or Semi-Secco ranges between 32 and 50 g/l. This is the most delicious prosecco, but it’s not widely available.
  • Dolce, also known as Doux, contains a high amount of residual sugar (50+ g/l). Although this sweetness is not available in prosecco, it is the sweetest of sparkling wines.

Now that you know your prosecco from your standard supermarket sparkling wine, you can delight your friends with your knowledge this New Year’s Eve.

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