A Breakdown on Champagne, Sparkling Wine and Prosecco

Mar. 26, 2018

Drinking sparkling wine is a much easier task than selling or serving it. There are hundreds of sparkling wine varietals and it’s a wait staff’s job to not only pour bubbles but know them too.

To make matters even more difficult, wait staffs often find they are on their own when it comes to learning about champagne, sparkling wine and prosecco. 

According to a recent on-premise study, only one-third of wait staffs have had any type of bubbles training in the last 12 months and another third haven’t had any training at all. Most don’t even know what’s on the menu, with 70% of wait staff reporting low familiarity with champagne vintages.

Consequently, this means they can’t confidently sell or even discuss sparkling wines with customers. 

Although the study found that wait staffs preferred more hands-on training provided by management, we spoke with Breakthru Minnesota Wine Specialist Bill Coy to break down some of the more important components of sparkling wine.


“What most consumers don’t know is that Champagne is an actual region in France,” Coy said.

For a sparkling wine to be called Champagne, it must be made in Champagne’s cool climate.

Most domestic bubbles are made in California, Coy said, but sparkling wines of the Cava varietal comes from Spain and Prosecco (made from the Glera grape) is produced in Italy. 


Sparkling wines made in France’s cooler Champagne region will have notes resembling a bakery. Coy considers these flavors to be more yeasty – think more so of a brioche bun or buttered toast.

However, their domestic equivalents, especially those of the drier variety, have more of a fruit component, Coy said. There are usually notes of peach, strawberry, pear and even honeysuckle. Since the environment is more temperate, Coy said the flavor won’t be as minerally.

Prosecco has a fermentation process that resembles the one used for beer, which creates a less complex, simpler version of sparkling wine, Coy said. It’s easier to drink, with a higher fruit and sugar content.


 Pairing sparkling wines with food holds the same science as their less bubbly counterparts.

Coy said lighter, drier domestics pair well with seafood and any plates that evoke lemon flavors. Prosecco holds well with fruit desserts but not chocolate. Brut Champagne or brut rosé are the most universal varietals – they go with everything, Coy said.


Serving sparkling wine depends on the occasion. According to the study, bubbles see an uptick in serves before, during and after dinner, special occasions and for larger groups of people.

Although Coy said people enjoy the “celebratory feeling” champagne and their fancy flutes provide, he believes serving bubbles also stems from a more practical approach. He suggests recommending a bottle when a group of six or more walk in.

“When you get something in for everyone, it saves you time,” he said. “You aren’t waiting for seven to eight drinks at the bar.”


Coy said much of the hesitance in serving champagne or sparkling wine is not knowing how to properly open a bottle.

To serve champagne tableside, leave the wire on the cork after twisting it loose. Tilt the bottle at a 40 degree angle and with a table napkin over the mouth of the bottle, pull the cork open but make sure to push it back slightly. There should be a hiss, not a pop.

Otherwise, the sparkling wine will fizz and explode from the bottle. Coy stresses this.

“Don’t waste Champagne.”


Download the full infographic here.



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