Champagne vs Prosecco: little difference in quality?

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Are the qualities of sparkling wines made according to the Méthode Traditionnelle or the Charmat- Martinotti method very different from each other?

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

The Brazilian University of Caxias do Sul conducted extensive research on the influence of the Méthode Traditionnelle production methods (Champagne) and the Charmat method (Prosecco) on the quality of sparkling wines. Both methods are popular for producing sparkling wines, but they differ in speed and amount of labor, and therefore cost (Cisilotto et al., 2023).

De verrassende conclusie: mousserende wijnen, gemaakt volgens beide methodes, zijn in elk opzicht vergelijkbaar.

In the Méthode Traditionnelle (Champagne, Crémant, Cava*), the base wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle, producing carbon dioxide (CO2). In the Charmat method (Prosecco, Asti Spumante, Lambrusco*), the second fermentation is in large stainless steel hermetically sealed tanks. So even with that method, the carbon dioxide can’t escape and stays perfectly in the wine.

People generally consider the Méthode Traditionnelle to be a slower and more expensive process than the Charmat method.

The base wine used for the study was a blend of Chardonnay (36%), Riesling (30%) and Pinot Noir (34%). The researchers used chemical analysis, sensory testing, experienced consumers and professionals to taste. And an expert panel to assess the wines’ development over 25 months.

The study results showed that there was no significant difference between the quality of the wines produced by either method. Although there were some differences in chemical composition and sensory properties, these differences were not large enough to make a clear distinction between the two types of sparkling wines.

The findings suggest that both production methods can be used to produce high-quality sparkling wines. In doing so, the researchers stress that it does not mean the Méthode Traditionnelle is obsolete. The choice of production method depends on the desired taste, style and available (marketing) budget.

Marketing and psychology

In their publication, the researchers also cite other studies that show how communication and marketing influence our preferences and purchasing behavior.

Thus, Riccardo Vecchio examined the Role of the Production Process and information on quality expectations and perceptions of sparkling wine. Over time, communications and marketing have emphasized “the better quality of traditional sparkling wines. As a result, consumers ignore wines produced in other ways. Even without trying them first (Vecchio et al., 2018).

Vecchio wanted to know to what extent the degree of knowledge about the production process of the Méthode Traditionelle and the Charmat method can influence consumer preferences. When tasting the wines completely blind and without information, the preferred method was the Charmat method. When given only detailed information about the production process, consumers’ preference – that is, even without tasting the wines – was for the Méthode Traditionelle.

Another more or less similar study addressed Australian consumers’ preferences for different sparkling wines, and the influence of wine style and occasion on their purchasing and consumption behavior (Verdonk et al., 2021). Beforehand, the tasting panelists associated Champagne with festivities and saw it as an expensive but sophisticated luxury product. But in tasting, significantly lower rating scores were given to Champagne and other sparkling white wines and rosés [Méthode Traditionnelle] relative to expectations. And although two-thirds of consumers had never purchased Prosecco [Charmat-methode] before, this style of sparkling wine was viewed positively and consumers on the tasting panel could well imagine drinking Prosecco on a variety of occasions.

* Some examples

Wine made according to the Méthode Traditionnelle:

  • Champagne (France) – The Champagne region of France produces this famous sparkling wine exclusively according to the Méthode Traditionnelle.
  • Cava (Spain) – Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine produced mainly in the Penedès region of Catalonia, and it is also made according to the Méthode Traditionnelle.
  • Crémant (France) – Crémants are French sparkling wines produced outside the Champagne region, but still following the Méthode Traditionnelle.
  • Franciacorta (Italy) – This is an Italian sparkling wine produced in the Lombardy region, which also uses the Méthode Traditionnelle.

Wine made according to the Charmat method:

  • Prosecco (Italy) – The Italian sparkling wine (spumante), Prosecco is produced mainly in the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions, mostly using the Charmat method.
  • Lambrusco (Italy) – Lambrusco is a light sparkling red wine from Italy, produced mainly in the Emilia-Romagna region, and again using the Charmat method.
  • Asti Spumante (Italy) – This is a sweet sparkling wine from the Piedmont region of Italy, using the Charmat method of production.

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