Have you ever idly wondered what the difference is between Champagne and Prosecco? It’s not an uncommon questions but I’ll bet it’s one seldom followed-up on because by the time you’ve popped the cork and had a few sips you’ve probably moved on to other great questions of the day.
Like where you put the strawberries.
Prosecco is very much like Champagne in that they are both regionally distinct names–the Prosecco region in Italy (Veneto–which, if you were/are a “Real Housewives of New York” viewer you may giggle at the remembrance of when that name came up*) would be akin to the Champagne region in France. They each use a particular grape (for Prosecco it is the Glena grape, whereas Champagne is usually a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay), and double ferment the wine to produce the lovely, bubbly finish. The fermentation, though, is where the biggest difference comes into play.
Whereas Champagne undergoes first a barrel fermentation followed by a bottle fermentation, Prosecco uses the Charmat style of double fermentation, both cycles of which take place in stainless steel vats. As I understand it, this is a faster process and perhaps one of the reasons Prosecco remains more readily available and priced lower than it’s French contemporary.
Prosecco can be either dry or sweet and my research shows that the label should tell you what level of sweetness the bottle contains. The bottle I happened to have on hand, the above-pictured Cupcake Vineyards variety, does not make this distinction that I can find, but by taste I can tell that it is of the more widely-available Brut or Extra Brut (extra dry) variety.
This particular Prosecco (and, yes, for the curious, the California brand does import this from the proper region in Italy, so it really is Prosecco, is very pale in color and, according to their tasting notes, smells of peach and melon with flavor influences of lemon and brioche. Actually, I get more toast from the nose (though if I really inhale I can get the peach, too, still not so much the melon) but can definitely taste the citrus notes. They suggest serving it with prosciutto-wrapped melon (I could go for that), a rich cheese like Gorgonzola (again, no complaints here), or a fettucine alfredo (okay, this one I’m not as thrilled by for some reason). At around or under, depending on your store, $10 a bottle you could drink far worse.
*Romona’s fondness for Pinot Grigio got her into creating her own brand produced in Veneto which she pronounced ve-NET-toh. Countess Luann corrected her by explaining it was pronounced VEH-ne-toh or some such and then roasted her in the interview voice-over about how stupid a person must be not to know how to pronounce the name of the region your wine was being produced in. Oh, Countess… As a child I remember reading words and understanding their meaning clearly enough (context clues!) but having only read them, didn’t know I was saying them wrong in my head. The word annihilation comes to mind, in particular. (What? I had found a copy of Alas, Babylon at the used bookstore and I was maybe 10 or so. You can imagine that annihilate hadn’t come up on the spelling tests, yet.) Also, I stopped watching after Alex left the show so I have no idea what hijinks the women are getting up to these days.