You probably know that champagne is French and prosecco is Italian. By international law, only sparkling wines produced in the eponymous north-eastern region of France may be called champagne. Prosecco originally comes from two north-eastern regions of Italy, near the border with Slovenia. Nowadays it’s also produced in other parts of the world (including Australia) despite a decade-long push by the European Union to grant the name similar geographical protection.
But nationality is just one of several things that separate these sparkling wines.
Champagne is typically made from pinot noir, pinot meunier and/or chardonnay grapes and could smell and taste like citrus, peach, nuts, toast, biscuit and/or brioche. Prosecco’s typical flavours and aromas are apple, pear, cream and/or vanilla. Somewhat confusingly, it’s made mostly from a Slovenian grape that’s also called prosecco, with smaller amounts of pinot grigio, verdiso, chardonnay and others.
The two wines are carbonated differently, too – champagne in the bottle itself, and prosecco in large stainless steel tanks. The former method is labour intensive (the bottles have to be regularly turned by hand), which means champagne is often more expensive than prosecco. Champagne is also fizzed at higher pressures, resulting in particularly fine, zapping bubbles, where prosecco is typically frothier and creamier.
This article was updated on January 7 to clarify the legal standing of the word prosecco as it refers to sparkling wine, and the correct name for the varietal it’s made with, also known as prosecco.