What's the difference between English sparkling wine and Prosecco?

Posted by Natasha Caller on

What's the difference between English Sparkling Wine and Prosecco?

The tension is building this evening in the run up to England's biggest football event in 50 years - the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy!

Well, let's face it, the football could go either way (though we very much hope it's coming home!) but one contest England is absolutely sure to win is that between English Sparkling Wine and Italy's iconic sparkling wine - Prosecco. 

So, two sparkling wines - what is the difference between English Sparkling Wine and Prosecco? 


Where they're from

Sounds obvious, but English Sparkling Wine must be made from grapes that have been grown in England. There are additional requirements for if a producer wants to call it "English Regional Sparkling Wine" or "English Quality Sparkling Wine". Arguably, we could do with a slightly snappier name for our national wine! (Think about how much of a mouthful "English Quality Sparkling Wine" is vs something like Champagne, Prosecco or Cava!)

For Prosecco, it all comes from a region in Northern Italy called Veneto. It has to meet certain requirements to have "DOC" on the label (stands for Denomination of Origin Controlled), but the seriously good stuff comes from a corridor between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene known as Strada del Prosecco - Prosecco from here will have "DOCG" on the label (stands for Denomination of Origin Controlled and Guaranteed). 


Prosecco Vineyard

(Image - a vineyard just outside of Conegliano in Italy)

Chilford Hall Vineyard

(Image - Chilford Hall Vineyard in Cambridgeshire)


Grape varieties

English Sparkling Wine tends to mimic Champagne varieties - a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, however it can include other varieties such as Pinot Gris. Within English Sparkling Wine, you can get Blanc de Blancs (made from only white grape varieties) and Blanc de Noirs (made from only black grape varieties, such as Pinot Noir). For more on the different blends of English Sparkling Wine, click here to read more.  

For Prosecco, the Glera grape variety is used. 

As you can imagine, with English Sparkling Wine being more varied in the grape varieties used, there is a much wider spectrum on taste, whereas Prosecco tends to be fairly consistent. (More on that further down!)


How it's made

English Sparkling Wine is most commonly made using the traditional method (also known as the Champagne method). This involves going through a second fermentation in the bottle itself. You may have seen or heard of a process called "riddling" - the daily rotating of wine bottles slightly, to allow the sediment to settle at the top of the bottle where it can be removed once the fermentation is complete. The traditional method for wine production takes time (several years mostly) and expert levels of skill. 

Prosecco is made using a tank method - this is where the second fermentation takes place in the tank. It's much quicker and lower cost to do. 

As you can imagine, the above has a big impact on price, which brings us onto... 


The cost

We like using the infographic below from John Hawkins to explain the cost difference between English Sparkling Wine and Prosecco. 

English Sparkling Wine usually costs at least £20-30 a bottle, whereas Prosecco is commonly sold for £6-10. 

Why is English wine more expensive than Prosecco


What about the taste?

Arguably the most important part! How does it taste?!

English Sparkling Wine, as above, can have huge variety in taste because of the variety in soil types in England, and the grape varieties used in making English Sparkling Wine. 

However, traditionally, it's similar to Champagne - with notes of brioche or biscuit, orchard fruits, and delicate nutty notes. 

Prosecco tends to be slightly less dry than English Sparkling Wine, feel slightly lighter, with apple being the dominant flavour. 


What do the critics say?

English Sparkling Wine has been gaining momentum for years, beating Champagne in global wine awards. In fact, some Champagne houses are now investing in English vineyards! We stock a range of medal-winning English Sparkling Wines, and we're incredibly proud to say that England now produce some of the very best sparkling wines in the world. 

Some of the DOCG types of Prosecco (from Conegliano to Valdobbiadene) are great quality and have won awards across the world, but if you're talking to a wine critic, you'll be hard pressed to find one who thinks that Prosecco is a top quality wine. 


What about vineyard tours?

Whilst we're still very firmly on the England side here (!!), we have enjoyed a few trips to the Prosecco region, and it's stunning! Set against the backdrop of the Dolomite Mountains, the steep hills of the Prosecco region are simply gorgeous. The climate is warm and sunny, particularly during the summer months. Prosecco is a wine best served as fresh as possible, so it's no surprise that it tastes its most delicious over in Italy where it's freshest. 

Fun fact - to avoid the bubbles interfering with food, during meals, Prosecco is served still! The still variety is called Prosecco Tranquilo - we recommend this with seafood, absolutely gorgeous! 

In England, the vineyards are of course less mountainous than in Italy, but you'll still get the beautiful rolling hills of the English countryside! We can't promise sunshine unfortunately! But if you do go on a vineyard tour, the vineyard will no doubt be experienced in making a tour great fun even in the rain! A lot of tours will end with food - whilst it's not exactly a pro-pairing, one of our favourite vineyard tours was a range of English wines with a Plougmans lunch! 

 Chilford Hall Vineyard

(Image - Chilford Hall Vineyard - they do an amazing vineyard tour and lunch!)

In a nutshell?

People compare English Sparkling Wine with Prosecco because they're both sparkling wines, but really, the similarities end there. If you're looking for a great value, easy drinking wine, Prosecco is a great choice. But for a beautiful quality, more environmentally friendly wine that offers stunning variety of flavour, and supports independent British business, English Sparkling Wine is the top choice. 


And of course, we're rooting for an English win this evening! Come on England! #itscominghome

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