bottles of champagne

Wine snobs, take note – Cava and Prosecco are NOT just cheap Champagne knock offs

Celebration is in the air right now.

Kate just gave birth to a healthy royal baby, Mayweather retains his title of undisputed world champion (although I was rooting for Pacquiao), the Weather Gods have mercifully timed a modest bout of sunshine with bank holiday weekend, yesterday I completed Tough Mudder with all four limbs in tact (phew), and Grappled was featured in the Sunday Times travel magazine.

No doubt plenty of Brits will be toasting to health, happiness and holiday over the next couple of days.

Drake popping Champagne

Maybe not quite like this, though

Although I have proclaimed my undying love of Champagne in the past, I do think alternatives don’t get nearly as much airtime as they should. Very legitimate sparkling wines that lack the Champagne label are sometimes perceived as low quality substitutes.

This should not be the case.

Yes, sparkling wines are often a less expensive option than Champagne, but price is not always indicative of quality. Prosecco, Cava, Cremant, Sekt and other sparkling wines should not be mistaken as lame wannabes – they are different in style, they can be delicious in their own right, and they often make an excellent choice for many dishes and occasions.

If I haven’t bored you yet and you are wondering how these sparkling wines are different, let me tell you.

This wine is produced in Northern Italy using the grape variety Glera. While Champagne is made in the “méthode traditionelle” (i.e. the second fermentation takes place in the bottle), Prosecco is always fermented in a stainless steel tank. Unlike some Champagnes, Prosecco does not come into contact with oak. So what does all of this mean? It means that this Italian bubbly has a lighter, more delicate style than Champagne; it is also often slightly sweeter. It tends to be light in colour and offers soft, creamy notes of pineapple, pear, apricot and apple – which is maybe why it outsells Champagne in the UK!


Prosecco bottles often come in unconventional shapes

Spain’s answer to sparkling wine, Cava is much closer to Champagne in style than many of its counterparts. It is produced using indigenous Spanish grapes such as Macabeu, Parellada and Xarello, and is produced in the same method as Champagne. It tends to be dry and refreshing with distinct characters of green apple, citrus, almond and toast. Since Spain has a warmer climate than the northeast of France, Cava offers riper, fruitier flavours. Cava can also be aged and vintage.


Freixenet is one of the largest Cava producers

This is a generic name given to a range of different sparkling wines in France. These wines are produced in the same way as Champagne, although the grape varieties used and style of wine will depend on the region. Two well-known wines are Crémant de Loire, produced in the Loire Valley using Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay grapes amongst others, and Crémant de Bourgogne which is made in Burgundy from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. Crémants are often refreshing, zesty, biscuity and make for a fair contender to wines from the Champagne region.

A handy map on French sparkling wine

A handy map on French sparkling wine

Translating to “sparkling wine”, Sekt is produced in nearly every wine-growing region in Germany. A very small proportion of it is produced using the “méthode traditionelle”. It can comprise of a number of grape varieties – most likely Riesling, Silvaner, Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir. Although generally fruity and refreshing, the exact characteristics of a particular Sekt will depend on the producer and the grapes used (it can range from extremely dry to extremely sweet). A lot of it is consumed domestically.

Sekt steel tanks

Sekt is fermented in steel tanks – like Prosecco

This post has been exclusively focused on bubbly from Europe (you can probably guess which way I will vote in the inevitable EU referendum). Sparkling wine is absolutely produced in the US, New Zealand and the rest of the New World, but I’ll leave that for another time because your hand is probably itching to grab the nearest bottle of bubbly. Cheers!

For more information on the different sparkling wines of the world, and what dishes with which they pair exquisitely, download the app Grappled at on your iOS or Android device.

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