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Champagne, sparkling wine and Prosecco at a glance - all sparkling wines explained

by Honest & Rare Editorial Team
Champagner, Sekt und Prosecco im Überblick - alle Schaumweine erklärt

The most important facts summarized for you:

  • Sparkling wine is much less effervescent than sparkling wine and usually has a lower alcohol content.
  • Sparkling wine is mainly found in German-speaking countries and cava is a sparkling wine specialty from Spain.
  • Only sparkling wines from the Champagne region of France can be called champagne. Alternatively, you can also opt for a French crémant, which is also produced using the Champagne method.
  • Italian Prosecco is available as either sparkling wine (spumante) or semi-sparkling wine (frizzante).

Sparkling or semi-sparkling wine, sparkling wine, cava or prosecco - perhaps you would prefer a fine champagne for special occasions? If you are looking for bubbly enjoyment from a champagne glass, you have a wide range of different drinks to choose from.

Was unterscheidet Schaumwein von Perlwein, Sekt von Prosecco? Hier erfährst du die Unterschiede!
"What distinguishes sparkling wine from semi-sparkling wine, sparkling wine from Prosecco? Find out the differences here!

To help you get your bearings and find your new favorite sparkling wine or semi-sparkling wine more easily, we present the different candidates in a brief portrait.

Buy high-quality sparkling and semi-sparkling wines:

Sparkling wine

The sparkling wine category includes bottled wines that are under pressure due to dissolved carbon dioxide (carbonic acid). At 20°C, there must be an overpressure of at least 3 bar in the bottle. According to food law regulations, the designation sparkling wine is only permitted if the alcohol content is at least 9.5% vol. and the country of origin is stated on the label.

The basis for sparkling wine, cava & co. is usually a cuvée (= young wine blended from several grape varieties) after the first fermentation. Depending on the production process, the desired carbon dioxide is achieved through fermentation (by adding sugar and yeast). Common methods are traditional bottle fermentation (méthode champenoise, méthode traditionnelle), tank fermentation (méthode charmat) or the transvasation method (combines the advantages of both methods). In some cases, sparkling wine with added carbon dioxide is also available; these products must be labeled accordingly.

Schaumweine sind generell kohlensäurehaltiger als Perlwein.
Sparkling wines are generally more carbonated than semi-sparkling wines.

Sparkling wine at a glance:

  • Main region of production: in almost all known wine regions
  • Place of consumption: in many countries worldwide
  • Generic term for various drinks such as sparkling wine, champagne, crémant, spumante and cava
  • Alcohol content: at least 9.5% vol.
  • Special characteristics: very fizzy with a lot of carbon dioxide; flavors vary depending on the residual sugar content, for example dry (also sec or secco), semi-dry or sweet

Sparkling wine

Compared to sparkling wine, the carbon dioxide overpressure in sparkling wine is significantly lower (approx. 1 to a maximum of 2.5 bar), which is why this drink is also known as semi-sparkling wine. In Germany, the term secco has also become established in the trade.

When it comes to production, a distinction must be made between endogenous and exogenous carbon dioxide. In most cases, carbon dioxide is added separately using an impregnation process (exogenous). Endogenous carbon dioxide comes from the first or second fermentation of the base wine.

Perlweine werden hauptsächlich in Italien und Deutschland hergestellt.
Sparkling wines are mainly produced in Italy and Germany.

Sparkling wine at a glance:

  • Main region of production: primarily Germany and Italy
  • Place of consumption: also mainly Germany and Italy
  • (Prosecco) Frizzante is a well-known sparkling wine, sparkling wine is also often sold in Germany under the name Secco
  • Alcohol content: at least 7 % vol.
  • Special characteristics: slightly fizzy with less carbon dioxide; flavors vary depending on the residual sugar content, for example dry, semi-dry or sweet

Sparkling wine

As strict quality criteria apply to the production of sparkling wine according to EU regulations, these products are usually also referred to as quality sparkling wines in Germany and Austria.

As a fine and fresh acidity is generally desired, the base wines are selected on the basis of their acidity. The grapes are usually harvested a little earlier compared to the conventional grape harvest in order to prevent the acidity from decreasing as the wine matures. Typical grape varieties for sparkling wine include Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay. Producers add a yeast-sugar mixture to the cuvée as the basis for the second fermentation.

For the production of sparkling wine, the three production methods that we have already introduced to you are used, i.e. either bottle fermentation, tank fermentation or transvasation. There are special types of sparkling wine, such as Riesling sparkling wine, for which only one grape variety is used. When you buy Winzersekt, you get a sparkling wine produced by the winegrowers themselves.

Sekt wird in Deutschland häufig als Qualitätsschaumwein angeboten
Sparkling wine is often offered as quality sparkling wine in Germany

Sparkling wine at a glance:

  • Main region of production: EU
  • Place of consumption: especially in Germany and Austria
  • Sparkling wine is related to other sparkling wines such as champagne, crémant or cava
  • Alcohol content: at least 10 % vol.
  • Special characteristics: highly effervescent with a lot of carbon dioxide; flavors vary and depend heavily on the grape variety: naturally tart, tart, semi-dry, etc.


French champagne is a very special sparkling wine that you may appreciate as an exclusive drink for special occasions. However, not every sparkling wine can boast this elegant name. The protected designation of origin (Appellation d'Origine Protegée) may only be given to a sparkling wine that comes from the approximately 33,500-hectare Champagne region. In addition, certain cultivation regulations regarding planting density, yield restrictions, manual harvesting, gentle pressing, minimum storage time on lees and bottle fermentation are prescribed.

The transvasation process is prohibited for Champagne. At around 6 bar, the pressure for champagne is significantly higher than for sparkling wine. Almost exclusively certain champagne grapes are used: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. Champagne is more expensive than sparkling wine, crémant or cava.

Champagner wird ausschließlich in einem geschützten Herkunftsgebiet in Frankreich hergestellt.
Champagne is produced exclusively in a protected region of origin in France.

Champagne at a glance:

  • Main region of production: French Champagne (exclusively)
  • Place of consumption: worldwide
  • Champagne is related to other sparkling wines such as sparkling wine (especially vintner's sparkling wine), crémant or cava
  • Alcohol content: on average around 10 to 12% vol.
  • Special characteristics: very effervescent with lots of carbon dioxide, special freshness and finesse, fruity and full-bodied aroma; available in different flavors such as brut, sec or demi sec


If you are looking for an affordable alternative to expensive champagne, crémant is a good choice. This French sparkling wine is also produced by bottle fermentation and, like champagne, is subject to a controlled designation of origin in France.

The term crémant is used for sparkling wines that are produced outside of Champagne using the Champagne method. In France, this term is permitted for sparkling wines from the following growing regions: Bordeaux (Crémant de Bordeaux), Burgundy (Crémant de Bourgogne), Alsace (Crémant d'Alsace), Jura (Crémant du Jura), Languedoc (Crémant de Limoux), Loire (Crémant de Loire), Rhône (Crémant de Die) and Savoie (Crémant de Savoie). The grape varieties differ depending on the growing region.

Wie Champagner kommt auch der Crémant ausschließlich aus geschützten Herkunftsgebieten.
Like Champagne, Crémant also comes exclusively from protected regions of origin.

Crémant at a glance:

  • Main production region: eight growing regions in France
  • Place of consumption: France and other EU countries
  • Crémant is a sparkling wine and closely related to champagne
  • Alcohol content: at least 10 % vol.
  • Special characteristics: very bubbly with lots of carbon dioxide, fruity-fresh aroma


Just like Crémant or Champagne, Spanish Cava is bottle-fermented. It mainly comes from the Catalan region of Penedès, although there is no prescribed region of origin. The Denominació d'Origen (DO) quality designation is protected. You can recognize genuine cava by the star branded into the cork.

Cava wird überwiegend in Katalonien (Spanien) hergestellt.
Cava is mainly produced in Catalonia (Spain).

Cava at a glance:

  • Main production region: Catalonia (mainly: Penedès region)
  • Place of consumption: all of Europe
  • Cava is related to other sparkling wines such as sparkling wine (especially vintner's sparkling wine), crémant or champagne
  • Alcohol content: between 10.8 - 12.8% vol.
  • Special characteristics: typical berry and apricot aromas with light floral nuances


If you search for Prosecco, you will find a wide range of different varieties. This protected designation of origin is equally permitted for Italian sparkling wine (Prosecco Spumante), semi-sparkling wine (Prosecco Frizzante) and still wine (Prosecco spento or Prosecco tranquillo).

As a rule, Prosecco is made from the Glera grape variety, although other varieties such as Bianchetta, Perera, Chardonnay or Pinot bianco are also permitted.

Prosecco kann sowohl Schaumwein, als auch Perlwein sein - kommt aber immer aus Italien.

Prosecco can be either sparkling wine or semi-sparkling wine - but it always comes from Italy.

Prosecco at a glance:

  • Main region of production: Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia (Italy)
  • Place of consumption: all of Europe
  • Prosecco Spumante is related to sparkling wine and Prosecco Frizzante is a light sparkling wine
  • Alcohol content: at least 10% by volume (Prosecco Spumante)
  • Special characteristics: slightly fizzy (Frizzante) to very fizzy (Spumante) with a fruity, fresh aroma


The term Secco has become established for a light sparkling wine from German production. It has been enriched with the wine's own carbon dioxide. The pressure for Secco is only around 1 to 2.5 bar.

Secco ist der Begriff für einen leichten Perlwein aus Deutschland.
Secco is the term for a light sparkling wine from Germany.

Secco at a glance:

  • Main region of production: Germany
  • Place of consumption: Mainly Germany
  • Secco is a light sparkling wine and closely related to Prosecco Frizzante
  • Alcohol content: at least 7% vol.
  • Special characteristics: only slightly fizzy with a light, fruity aroma

Did you enjoy this brief excursion into the world of sparkling wine, champagne & co. Then you will find a large selection of different candidates for your own personal sparkling or semi-sparkling wine tasting here: To the sparkling wine, Prosecco & Co. range

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About the autor:

Honest & Rare Editorial Team

Honest & Rare Editorial Team


Some things can only be accomplished as a team. Just like this article here! That's why we mark all jointly created articles as editorial contributions. Cheers!

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