Happy New Year! I hope 2022 is off to a great start for you. I hope you were able to enjoy some good bubbly to kick in the New Year. Today, I thought I would dive into bubblies and look at the difference between Champagne, Cava, Prosecco and Sparkling Wine. I hope you enjoy this.
Are All Bubblies the Same?
Yes and no. Most bubblies involve a secondary fermentation, where sugar and yeast are added to a still base wine. So, at a high level, bubbies are the same. Also, at a high level, all bubblies are considered to be sparkling wine. But there are regional differences and process differences that, according to some, play a major role in distinguishing the different bubblies from one another. Let’s explore this further.
Considered the mother of all bubblies. Champagne is Sparkling Wine made in the Champagne region of northern France. It is made from a combination of three grapes: Chardonnay Pinot Noir and Pinot Munier. Secondary fermentation must be done in the bottle. And there is a minimum period of maturation on lees of 15 months for non-vintage Champagne and three years for vintage Champagne. Lees are the dead yeast cells and other particles remaining in a wine after fermentation. So, the bottles have to lie down for a minimum of 15 months before being released.
To learn more about the Champagne requirements, please visit Comité Champagne’s site.
Cava is Sparkling Wine made in Spain. It is made in a similar fashion to how Campagne is made, which is known as method champenoise. Here are the grapes used to make Cava:
- Macabeu (white)
- Parellada (white)
- Xarel·lo (white)
- Chardonnay (white)
- Pinot Noir (red)
- Garnacha (red)
- Monastrell (red)
According to Wine Folly, Macabeau is the prominent grape used in Cava, even though it is a somewhat simple grape. Xarel·lo (sounds like ‘Cheryl-ooh’) is much more aromatic with rich floral aromas and pear/melon-like notes. Paralleda is used for its high acidity and zesty citrus flavors. Madeleine Puckett says that “The three Spanish grapes create a balanced fruity sparkling wine that’s less sweet than Prosecco but not as nutty as Vintage Champagne.”
Prosecco is Italian Sparkling Wine made from the white Glera grape in the Veneto and Friuli regions of northeast Italy. Note that there are two main styles of Prosecco: Frizzante (fizzy) and Spumante (fully sparkling).
Very importantly, the methode champenoise process isn’t used to make Prosecco. Prosecco uses the charmat method where the secondary fermentation takes place in stainless steel pressure tanks, rather than in individual bottles. This process produces a younger, fruitier style of Sparkling Wine. Prosecco tends to be sweeter than other Sparkling Wines because of the use of the Glera grape.
As I said earlier, all bubblies are considered to be Sparkling Wine. So, you can drink a Sparkling Wine from anywhere in the world. But the term Sparkling Wine is used extensively in the United States, and the history behind its use is very interesting.
Wine Spectator says it brilliantly, so I will include their writeup here.
“The French wanted to protect the use of the term “Champagne” to only refer to bubbly made using traditional methods from grapes grown and vinified in the Champagne region of France, so when the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919 to end WWI, they included limits on the use of the word. However, history buffs may recall that the United States never actually ratified the Treaty of Versailles, and that in 1919 the U.S. was in the midst of Prohibition, so alcohol-labeling laws hardly seemed important at the time. Domestic sparkling wine producers remained free here to legally slap the word “Champagne” on their bottles of bubbly, much to the irritation of the winegrowers in Champagne. Out of respect and to avoid confusion, many producers in the United States called their bubbly ‘sparkling wine.’
“Then, in early 2006, the United States and the European Union signed a wine-trade agreement, and the issue was brought up again. This time, the United States agreed to not allow new uses of certain terms that were previously considered to be “semi-generic,” such as “Champagne” (as well as “Burgundy,” “Chablis,” “Port” and “Chianti”). But anyone who already had an approved label—Korbel and Miller High Life come to mind—was grandfathered in and may continue to use the term.”
I would love to hear your opinions on Champagne vs. Cava vs. Prosecco vs. Sparkling Wine.
Cheers and Happy New Year!