Champagne and Prosecco are two of the most popular sparkling wines in the world. But when it comes to sugar content, which one is sweeter?
What is Champagne?
Champagne is a sparkling wine that originates from the Champagne region of France. It’s made from a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay grapes. By law, Champagne can only be made in that region using the traditional méthode champenoise which involves a second fermentation in the bottle to create those signature bubbles.
Champagne has a light and fresh yet complex taste profile – its dry style comes from having very low sugar levels. Most Champagne contains 8-15 grams of sugar per liter, making it an extra brut or brut style.
What is Prosecco?
Prosecco hails from northeast Italy, mainly the Veneto region. Unlike Champagne, Prosecco is made from just one grape variety – Glera (also called Prosecco). It’s made using the Charmat or tank method, where the second fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks rather than individual bottles.
Prosecco is known for being light, crisp and vibrant with aromas of white peach, pear and apricot. It ranges from extra dry to sweet styles, though most Prosecco on the market is extra dry with around 14-16 grams of sugar per liter. The sweetest style, Prosecco Dolce, can have up to 50+ grams of sugar per liter.
So when comparing sugar levels between standard brut Champagne and dry Prosecco, Prosecco tends to be slightly sweeter. But there are many styles of each, so it depends exactly which wines you’re looking at.
Sugar in Champagne
Here’s a more in-depth look at the typical sugar levels found in different types of Champagne:
Brut Nature/Ultra Brut
– 0-3 grams of sugar per liter
– Bone dry with no perceivable sweetness
– 0-6 grams of sugar per liter
– Very dry with little to no sweetness
– Less than 12 grams of sugar per liter
– Dry, but with a hint of underlying sweetness
– 12-17 grams of sugar per liter
– Medium dry, with light sweetness coming through
– 17-32 grams of sugar per liter
– Off-dry, with noticeable sweetness
– 32-50 grams of sugar per liter
– Sweet yet still retaining balance
– Over 50 grams of sugar per liter
– Very sweet dessert-style Champagne
As you can see, brut Champagne has less than 12 grams of sugar per liter, while extra brut has just 0-6 grams. So most non-dosage Champagnes are very dry with minimal sugar content.
The only exceptions are the sweeter style Champagnes labeled as demi-sec or doux. These are specialty wines purposefully made to be dessert-style drinks.
Sugar in Prosecco
Now let’s examine the typical sugar levels in different Prosecco styles:
Extra Brut/Nature/Pas Dosé
– 0-6 grams of sugar per liter
– Very dry, no real perceptible sweetness
– 12-17 grams of sugar per liter
– Dry, with only a hint of sweetness
– 15-20 grams of sugar per liter
– Medium dry, with light sweetness
– 33-50 grams of sugar per liter
– Noticeably sweet yet balanced
– 50+ grams of sugar per liter
– Very sweet dessert Prosecco
Like with Champagne, the amount of sugar varies dramatically across Prosecco styles. Extra dry has about 12-17 grams of sugar per liter, while the popular dry style gets up to 20 grams.
In comparison, Champagne brut has less than 12 grams. So your average Prosecco tends to be a bit sweeter than Champagne.
The exceptions are extra brut/brut nature Prosecco with 0-6 grams of sugar. These bone dry styles align with the sweetness in brut Champagne. And Dolce Prosecco at over 50 grams is much sweeter than any Champagne.
Key Differences in Sugar Levels
Some key differences between the two sparkling wines:
- Most non-sweet styles of Champagne range from 0-12 grams of sugar per liter.
- Most non-sweet styles of Prosecco range from 12-17 grams of sugar per liter.
- Sweet Champagne styles go up to 50+ grams per liter.
- Sweet Prosecco styles can exceed 50+ grams per liter.
So in terms of dry styles, Prosecco tends to be slightly sweeter. But keep in mind these are general ranges – you can find brut Champagne with 12 grams and extra dry Prosecco with 10 grams.
It depends on the producer’s preferences and styles. But on average, Prosecco has a bit more sugar which contributes to its fruit-forward taste vs. the dry, mineral-driven profile of Champagne.
What Contributes to Sugar Levels?
There are a few key factors that determine the sugar levels in Champagne and Prosecco:
The riper the grapes are when harvested, the higher the natural sugar levels will be. Champagne grapes are typically harvested at lower sugar levels than Prosecco grapes.
The winemaking process affects sugar levels. For example, Prosecco ferments in tanks rather than bottles, exposing it to oxygen which can diminish sugar levels.
Sweet Reserve (Expedizione Liquoroso)
A sweet wine can be added after disgorgement to balance acidity and sweetness in both wines. More sweet reserve means higher sugar.
The dosage added at the end of Champagne production contains sugar. The amount added determines the sweetness style. Prosecco also gets some dosage, but generally less than Champagne.
Aging on the lees in bottle for extended time (like Champagne requires) allows more yeast interaction which reduces perception of sugar.
So in summary, both the grape growing conditions and winemaking steps impact the residual sugar levels in the final wines. But on the whole, Prosecco grapes tend to be riper and methods favor retaining more sugar.
How is Sugar Measured?
Sugar levels in wine are measured in grams per liter. This represents the amount of residual sugar remaining after the alcoholic fermentation ends.
To determine sugar levels, a small sample of wine is extracted and the density is measured. This density is then compared to the density of a sugar solution with a known concentration. From that, the approximate sugar content can be determined.
It’s represented as g/L (or sometimes g/100mL) on a wine’s technical sheets and required labeling in some regions.
This helps consumers choose wines based on their sweetness preferences. However, it doesn’t account for other compounds that can influence perceived sweetness, like fruit flavors and acidity.
Tasting Differences Due to Sugar
Let’s review how residual sugar impacts the tasting profiles of Champagne vs. Prosecco:
- Brut styles have under 12 g/L sugar, leaving the mineral, citrus and brioche flavors prominent.
- Drier Champagnes have more lean, focused acidity.
- Sweetness takes a backseat to the tangy, complex flavors.
- Extra dry styles have 12-17 g/L sugar, accentuating the fruitiness.
- Off-dry Proseccos are softer in acidity with a delicate sweetness.
- The added sugar highlights the ripe stone fruit, nectarine and melon notes.
The extra sugar in Prosecco gives it a fruit-forward profile that contrasts with the dry, acidic nature of Champagne. Brut Champagne may taste tart and austere to those unaccustomed to its bone-dry style.
Food Pairing Differences
Because of the tasting differences caused by sugar levels, Champagne and Prosecco generally pair better with different foods:
Brut Champagne goes well with:
- Salty foods like oysters, caviar, smoked salmon
- Savory dishes with umami flavors
- Rich, fatty foods like foie gras or chicken in cream sauce
- Aged, hard cheeses
Off-Dry Prosecco pairs well with:
- Light seafood, vegetables and pasta dishes
- Spicy Asian foods like Thai curry or sushi
- Fruit desserts
- Fresh cheeses like mozzarella or chevre
The sugary sweetness and acidity of Prosecco work well to offset spice and cut through lighter dishes. Brut Champagne has the body and intensity to stand up to rich, salty flavors instead.
Prosecco vs Champagne: The Verdict on Sugar
So in summary, which sparkling wine actually contains more sugar?
In their most common dry styles:
– Prosecco generally has 12-17 g/L sugar
– Brut Champagne has under 12 g/L sugar
In their sweetest styles:
– Sweet Prosecco can exceed 50 g/L sugar
– Sweet Champagne can also exceed 50 g/L sugar
While sweet and dry versions of both wines exist, Prosecco on average contains 1-5 grams more sugar per liter compared to Champagne.
This modest extra sweetness gives Prosecco its charming fruit-forward notes that complement many foods. Champagne, on the other hand, highlights complexity over sweetness – its dry style was originally developed to match rich French cuisine.
However, thanks to different dosages and winemaking methods, you can find dry Proseccos and delicately sweet Champagnes too. It comes down to producers’ house styles and regional traditions.
No matter your personal preference for sugar levels, knowing the typical ranges helps choose the right sparkling wine for any occasion!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does Prosecco have more sugar than Champagne?
Prosecco grapes are often harvested at a riper stage with higher natural sugars. The Prosecco production method also retains more of that original grape sugar. Finally, Prosecco is traditionally dosed with slightly more sugar liqueur before release.
Can you get no sugar Prosecco or Champagne?
Yes, both wines can be made in a zero-dosage, extra brut style with little to no sugar (0-6 grams per liter). These tend to be drier and more acidic.
What has the least sugar: Moscato, Prosecco, or Champagne?
Moscato has the most sugar, typically over 100 g/L. Between Prosecco and Champagne, Prosecco generally has 1-5 grams more sugar in dry styles. But Moscato is much sweeter than both.
Does sugar content affect the alcohol percentage?
No, sugar content and alcohol levels are separate measurements. Sugar refers to residual sugar after fermentation stops. Alcohol is determined by the length of fermentation.
Which Champagne sugar level is the sweetest?
Doux Champagne with over 50 grams of sugar per liter is the sweetest. Demi-sec and sec are next. Brut, extra dry, and extra brut contain minimal sugar.
To sum up this explainer on Champagne vs. Prosecco sugar:
- Prosecco tends to have 1-5 grams more residual sugar per liter compared to Champagne.
- Grape ripeness, winemaking processes, dosages and aging all affect sugar levels.
- The extra sweetness makes Prosecco fruitier while Champagne is crisper.
- Dry and sweet styles of both wines exist. Check labels for sugar content.
- Consider pairing sweeter Prosecco with spicy foods and desserts, while using dry Champagne for rich dishes.
Knowing the subtle differences in residual sugar helps choose the best sparkling wine for any taste or occasion!