The Italian sparkling wine Prosecco is becoming more and more popular here in the UK – and so it should! It’s not just the bubbles that make it fun to drink but there’s the flavour, too; clean and fresh with attractive hints of apple and pear, it’s the perfect wine to welcome your guests or to celebrate an occasion. And, perhaps best of all, you can buy a really enjoyable bottle (such as the one pictured above) for as little as £7 (Co-op supermarkets). As you can see, I’m an enthusiastic member of the Prosecco fan club. But where I disagree with many Prosecco lovers is that I don’t look on it as a cheap alternative to Champagne. Yes, they are both wine and both have bubbles in, but there the similarity ends.
They are made using different grape varieties (Glera for Prosecco, one or more of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay for Champagne) in different countries (Italy and France respectively) and with subtly different methods of production, which I won’t go into here. But there’s an even more significant reason why Prosecco will never taste like Champagne nor Champagne like Prosecco: what happens once they are bottled. While Prosecco will be shipped to the retailer almost immediately so that customers can enjoy its typically zesty, fruity flavours, Champagne will be stored in the producers’ cellars to mature for at least 15 months for non-vintage wines or 3 years for vintage. This ageing process introduces yeasty, bready notes and a certain richness of flavour to Champagne – characteristics that you would never expect from Prosecco.
So, which is best? No doubt, many would argue Champagne. But, for me, the two wines are so different, each should be enjoyed for its own special qualities.