Champagne, Sparkling Wine & Prosecco…what’s the difference?

Will Carter of Pine Plains Fine Wines & Spirits joined us on our weekly “Love Where You Live” broadcast on WHDD this week to tell us about choosing Wines & Spirits for the holidays. One of the things I wanted to know more about and wanted Will to share with our readers here was the difference between champagne, sparkling wine & prosecco as well as a primer on local distillers in our area.   Thank you, Will!

Champagne, Sparkling Wine, Prosecco. What’s the difference?

Champagne is a sparkling wine made from a blend of three grapes, all strictly produced in the Champagne district of France.  This is a trademarked name, so nothing from anyplace else can be legally called champagne. There are, however, other wonderful sparkling wines — they just are not called champagne.

Cremants are French sparkling wines from outside the champagne district, but made with the same three-step process.

Cavas from Spain can be quite delicious although they often use only a two-step process. The reduction in price reflects this.

Prosecco is a personal favorite, made in newly-designated DOGC areas north of Venice. Prosecco for me is “champagne light” — gentler, less yeasty, slightly sweeter than proper champagne. Most dinner parties at my house begin with prosecco because almost everyone loves it, and it is not expensive. The US has a number of “methode champenoise”-produced sparkling wines, many of exceptional quality.

Prosecco is my favorite for mimosas, I think the hint of sweetness goes best with orange juice. Either champagne or prosecco are excellent with a portion of Cassis added (kir royale), and a new favorite adds a bit if citrusy Elderflower liqueur before topping off with a sparkler.  A great way to enliven your holiday entertaining!

The big news in our area is the emergence of distillers of notable quality.  Pine Plains Fine Wines was the first store in our area to carry CORE vodka, made just north of Kinderhook, and named Best US Vodka by the independent Beverage Tasting Institute last year. One would never suspect is it made from apples — just a clean, crisp vodka. Bravo! They also produce a superlative Applejack, and fine Pear Brandy.

Genuine Calvados is in the works, hopefully for next year. We’re also enamored with Berkshire Mountain Gin made just over the way in Egremont, Massachusetts.  They make two – a strict London-dry type made with seven botanicals, and a softer, more complex gin made with fourteen botanicals. My customers love it.

Will Carter



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