Cava vs. Prosecco

/ Updated on May 20, 2015

Spain versus Italy! Not a soccer match, but often just as heated among sparkling wine aficionados. And the debate continues: So, what’s the difference?

There are two main differences: the grapes used, and the fermentation process. Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine that can be either white or rose. It can be traced back more than 150 years in Spain, but it only received its name in the 1970s. Like many sparkling wines, Cava can be sweet or dry brut. The grapes typically used in Cava are Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo grapes. Like Champagne, it has to come from a specific area and created in a specific way in order to legally be called Cava. In Spain, most Cavas come from Catalonia (near Barcelona) and it is made in the same way that Champagne is (methode traditionannelle) where the second fermentation takes place inside the bottle in which the wine will be sold. The base wine is bottled with a measured amount of sugar and yeast. Then the second fermentation gives it the right amount of fizz while raising the alcohol level an extra 1-1.5%. It also leaves a sediment of dead yeast cells. This is the key to those complex flavors of citrus, apple and pear typically found in Champagne. The dead yeast cells are then removed by a method known as disgorgement.

Prosecco is a sparkling wine made primarily from Glera grapes grown in the Veneto region in Northern Italy. There is history of the word “Prosecco” being used as far back as the 17th century. Until the 1990s, however, the technique used to make Prosecco resulted in a sweet, low-quality wine that bears no resemblance to the Prosecco of today. In blind taste tests, some Proseccos are virtually indistinguishable from Champagne. In terms its dry and yeasty taste, Prosecco is more like Champagne than any other sparkling wine. However, unlike Champagne, Prosecco is made fizzy by the tank method (second fermentation done in a large vat versus in the bottle). It is then settled and the clear wine pumped off the lees before being bottled under pressure, thereby creating the bubbles.

Both Cava and Prosecco are less expensive than real Champagne. They make for great wedding or everyday toasts. Teller Wines carries these sparkling wines from $10.99 – $31.99. So, whether you like Manchego or Provolone, Jamon Iberico or Prosciutto, Paella or Pappardelle, Flan or Tiramisu, pick up a few bottles to toast your mother, the bride and groom, the new graduate … or maybe just the weather. ‘Tis the season to celebrate with bubbles!

Catherine Hester

About the Author

co-owner of Teller Wines in Lewes, DE with her husband Kevin, is a world traveler and shares their adventures at various wineries while offering thoughts on why she and Kevin order particular wines for their customers. Learn more about the Hesters by clicking here. View all articles written by Catherine Hester

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  1. Bob M says:

    Life is full of difficult decisions and Catherine is not helping here. We already had a favorite Spanish wine from the “hot and jammy” section. We only have two bottle holders! We will definitely try the Cava now.

    Ps…the Breca bin has been empty for over a week!

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