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sparkling wine or champagne?For a long time, Champagne was the only “good” sparkling wine that most Americans drank on special occasions. However, in more recent times, Italian Proseccos and Spanish Cavas have been gaining popularity. 

When it’s time to celebrate a special occasion, there is a good chance you will see Processco and Cava on the wine list at your local wine shop. 

While Champagne carries the most prestige and highest price tag, Prosecco and Cava have seen a high rise in popularity thanks to their cheaper price tags. Here’s how Champagne compares to the world’s two other most popular sparklers, Prosecco and Cava. 

What’s the Difference Between Champagne, Prosecco, & Cava?


Many people often call any sparkling wine Champagne; however, this is not true. In reality, the only sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France can be called Champagne. It must be made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, or Chardonnay, and often a blend of all three. Wine enthusiasts know that Champagne is produced by méthode champenoise. 

This method was invented by a certain monk named Dom Perignon and later refined by the widow Clicquot. Méthode champenoise involves adding more yeast and sugar to a base of wine, then bottling the wine for a second fermentation. 

During this process, the wine ages with the yeast and sediment that forms, called the lees. The bottle is gradually tipped and spun so that all the lees collect in the neck of the bottle. Next, the bottle is then flash-frozen, the lees are popped out and the bottle is sealed again, to be popped on a special occasion. 

High-end Champagnes are one of life’s great pleasures, while less expensive Champagnes are rivaled by  equivalently-priced, or even much cheaper wines such as Proseccos and Cava. The difference in prices is partially from the production method used to make each mine. 

Champagne is a lot more time-intensive to produce and more expensive. 

Since carbonation develops under high pressure, Champagne has fine, persistent bubbles, and often exhibits almond-like flavors with subtle notes of orange zest and white cherry. Champagne pairs with just about any lighter fare. But it really shines when it is paired with shellfish, raw bar, pickled vegetables, and just about all crispy or fried foods like French fries, potato chips, empanadas or fried chicken.


Although Cava is made similarly to the méthode champenoise, the term only refers to winemaking activity within Champagne itself. In Spain, the methodology for producing Cava is instead called Traditional. 

Like Champagne, Cava undergoes in-bottle fermentation, though the wine within is stored at lesser pressures. Cava is not the first European sparkling wine developed, but it has left an impression on the industry. The wine is usually made with several grape varietals, including Macabeu, Parellanda, and Xarello, though it can be made from Chardonnay or Pinot grapes. 

You’ll mostly see Cava at a price point similar to or a little higher than Prosecco, but it’s more similar to Champagne in character and production. 

Cava is described as lighter in style than longer-aged Champagnes. Tasting notes include a balance between citrus, melon, pear, and a pleasant acidity. 

Since Cava is made in the same style as Champagne, it’s great for times when you wish for Champagne but do not want to spend a lot of money. 


While Champagne and Cava have similar processes, despite their different countries of origin, Prosecco’s process deviates from the formula. 

Italy’s sparkling wine is created using the Martinotti method, in which fermentation of the grapes takes place in stainless steel tanks instead of glass bottles. This makes Prosecco a less costly sparkling wine to produce than Champagne and Cava, and makes for frothier bubbles. 

A good quality bottle of Prosecco will often cost less than half that of a comparable Champagne. 

Prosecco tends to be a little sweeter than Champagne or Cava, with bigger bubbles and flavors of apple, pear, lemon rind, light flowers, and even tropical fruit. 

The sparkling wine pairs nicely with cured meats, fruit-driven appetizers, and Asian cuisine. 

Metro Wines

Ultimately, all of these sparkling wines have several differences from one another, but they offer unique experiences to your dishes. Of course, Champagne, Prosecco, and Cava are just the very beginning of the range of sparkling wines that exist. 

Metro Wines offers a wide selection of wines, focusing on pairing the right wine with any dish or event. To learn more about wine, contact us or visit our shop at 169 Charlotte St. Asheville, NC

Looking for more tips? Read our article on how to taste wine.