Prosecco vs Cava vs Champagne: Sparkling wine 101

Prepare to wow everyone with your connoisseur-level knowledge of all things bubbly

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They’re all fizzy, sparkly and dangerously quaffable – and pretty much everyone has an opinion on which one is their favourite. But aside from knowing that one’s from Italy, one’s from Spain and one’s from France, have you ever looked into the nitty gritty of what makes Prosecco, Cava and Champagne different?

If you really want to show off next time Prosecco o’clock rolls around (which, according to experts Mionetto, is officially 6:58 every Saturday evening), make a note of these Prosecco vs Cava vs Champagne facts – and prepare to wow everyone with your connoisseur-level knowledge of all things bubbly.

Glera grapes, which are used to make Prosecco

Glera grapes, which are used to make Prosecco

The grapes

One of the main differences between Prosecco, Cava and Champagne is where they’re produced – and the grapes used to make them.

As its name suggests, Champagne can only be made in the Champagne region of Northeast France – and it’s usually made with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier grapes. The only other grapes you’re allowed to use (Arbane, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris) count for less than 0.3% of plantings – so barely anything.

Cava is made in Spain. The three main grapes used are Macabeo, Xarel.lo and Parellada, although a bit of Chardonnay is used as well. There are also a few red grapes used in very small percentages: Garnacha, Trepat and Pinot Noir. It can be white (blanco) or rosé (rosado).

On the other hand, the nation’s favourite sparkler, Prosecco, is made in the Veneto and Friuli regions of Northeast Italy. To qualify as real-deal Prosecco, it must be made with at least 85% green-skinned Glera grapes – a famous variety that’s been grown in these regions for hundreds of years.

How they’re made

It’s not just the grapes that differentiate the big three sparkling wines, though. The way they’re made also helps to contribute to the taste, fizziness and overall character of the finished product.

Champagne and Cava? They’re made using the imaginatively Christened “Traditional Method”. OK, it does sound better in French… “méthode champenoise”. This sees the wine going through a second fermentation process (post-alcohol fermentation) inside the bottle. This method creates maximum fizz, as the carbon dioxide created sinks back into the wine, forming bubbles aplenty.

Over in Italy, the process used to make Prosecco is called the “Charmat Method” (also sometimes called metodo Italiano, the Marinotti method, the tank method, or cuve close) – and it involves a second round of fermentation in big tanks, rather than bottles. According to Prosecco specialists Mionetto, this process helps to better preserve the flavours, aromas and freshness of Prosecco that we all know and love. This is also why Prosecco tastes better when it’s drunk ‘young’.

What better excuse to buy a bottle and drink it straight away?

How they taste

There are so many styles of Prosecco, Cava and Champagne out there, and each one has its unique taste – but, as a general rule, what can you expect from the big three?

Champagnes can taste like a variety of things, but the most common flavours you’ll get from a bottle of Champers are yeast and brioche (think toasty, buttery, biscuity and a teeny bit citrus-y, and you’re on the right lines). While possessing a similarly zesty citrus flavour, Cava tends to also have a distinctive sour, earthy taste.

Prosecco can have different features depending on where it comes from and the grapes used to make it; but if you buy a DOCG (“Denomination of Controlled Origin Guaranteed”) bottle like Mionetto, you can expect a lively floral aroma, predominant notes of pear and apple, citrus undertones and a light, thin foam – making it the most drinkable bubbly of them all.

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Has all this talk of grapes and fizz got you craving a glass of the sparkly stuff? Take a look at one of our refreshing Mionetto cocktail recipes below, or learn more about Mionetto.

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Comments (6)

  • Great article Jessica!!

      3 months ago
  • It took me until now to realise it's Glera grapes used in Prosecco... who knew!

      3 months ago
  • Very well executed article!

    For those looking to experiment with Prosecco, be aware of the “Col Fondo” style. Think of it as the 9th century Mk1 Prosecco. It’s a distinctly funky and earthy Prosecco that’s dramatically different from today’s more famously fresh style. Re-fermentation takes place spontaneously in the bottle with its lees left unfiltered. The influence of dead yeast makes these wines very interesting, but quite strange to the common Prosecco drinker.

      3 months ago
  • Try Lambrusco Amabile... greatest of all this ;)

      3 months ago
  • Then there’s Blanquette de Limoux, the original sparkling wine from the Languedoc region of southern France. Single fermented and well worth a try. My favourite is the St Martin.

      3 months ago
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