Sparkling wines are always associated with celebration and luxury. The two most famous sparkling wines in the world are Asti Spumante and Champagne. Both of these wines have a long history, distinct production methods, and unique flavors that set them apart from each other.
In this article, we will explore the differences between Asti Spumante and Champagne to help you understand which one is best suited for your taste buds and special occasions.
Is Asti Spumante Champagne?
No, Asti Spumante is not Champagne. Champagne is a specific type of sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France, while Asti Spumante is produced in the Piedmont region of Italy. While both wines are sparkling and have similar characteristics, they have distinct differences that make them stand out from each other.
Asti Spumante vs. Champagne: Grape & Region
Asti Spumante originates from the Piedmont region of Italy, precisely the provinces of Asti, Cuneo, and Alessandria. It’s produced using the Charmat method, in which the secondary fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks rather than in the bottle, resulting in a fresh and fruity wine well-suited to immediate consumption. Asti Spumante exclusively uses the Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains grape, also known as Moscato Bianco, renowned for its sweet and aromatic characteristics.
Historically, Asti Spumante has a rich heritage dating back to Roman times. The Muscat grape has been cultivated in Asti for centuries, and the sparkling wine it produces has been a significant part of the region’s wine tradition. Asti Spumante gained DOCG status in 1993, affirming its quality and cultural significance. Today, it’s often associated with joyous celebrations and is traditionally served with dessert due to its sweet profile.
Champagne hails from the Champagne region of France, a cool-climate area where Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes thrive. These grape varieties form the backbone of most Champagne blends, each contributing unique qualities to the final product. Champagne’s production process, known as the Méthode Champenoise, involves a second fermentation in the bottle, which creates the characteristic effervescence and complexity of flavors.
The region’s winemaking history dates back to the Roman era, but it was only in the 17th century that the sparkling version of Champagne we know today was developed. This was largely due to the efforts of a monk named Dom Pérignon, who refined the process of making sparkling wine at the Abbey of Hautvillers. Champagne rapidly gained fame and was soon associated with the luxury and extravagance of the royal courts of Europe.
Today, Champagne holds an unparalleled position of prestige among the world’s wines. Its DOCG status, granted in 1927, recognizes the unique qualities imparted by the region’s terroir and the meticulous production methods used. Champagne is synonymous with celebration, marking milestones and achievements with its sophisticated and celebratory sparkle. It’s commonly paired with a wide variety of foods, from seafood to hard cheeses, making it a versatile choice for any occasion.
Asti Spumante vs. Champagne: Taste Comparison
Flavor profile of Asti Spumante
Asti Spumante is known for its higher sweetness levels compared to many other sparkling wines. This effervescent delight offers a medium to sweet taste, making it a preferred choice for those with a fondness for sweeter wines. Its lively bubbles and natural sweetness create a refreshing and harmonious drinking experience.
The fragrant and fruity aromas of Asti Spumante are dominated by the captivating scent of the Muscat grape. Upon the first swirl of the glass, one can detect hints of peach, apricot, pear, and orange blossom. These enticing aromas translate directly into the wine’s flavor profile, delivering a taste that is abundant in fresh fruit flavors with a sweet, honey-like finish.
As for food pairing, Asti Spumante is traditionally enjoyed with desserts due to its sweet profile. However, its fresh and fruity characteristics also make it a delightful match for light appetizers, spicy Asian cuisine, or fruit-based salads. It is also the perfect companion for celebratory toasts and aperitifs.
- Orange blossom
- Muscat Grape
- Medium to sweet
- Lively bubbles and natural sweetness
- Fragrant and fruity aromas dominated by Muscat grape
- Hints of peach, apricot, pear, and orange blossom
- Fresh fruit flavors with a sweet, honey-like finish
BEST PAIRED WITH:
- Light appetizers
- Spicy Asian Food
- Fruit-based salads
- Celebratory toasts and aperitifs
38–50°F / 3-8°C
Flavor profile of Champagne
Champagne, in contrast to Asti Spumante, tends to be drier. Its dryness level is categorized into various types such as Brut Nature (no added sugar), Extra Brut (very dry), Brut (dry), Sec (slightly sweet), and Demi-Sec (sweet). Most Champagne that you find in the market falls under Brut, striking a balance between dryness and a hint of sweetness.
The complexity of Champagne’s aroma and flavors are a result of the blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes and the aging process. It opens up with delicate aromas of citrus, green apple, and pear, mixed with nuances of brioche, almond, and vanilla due to the yeast contact during aging. The palate is typically fresh and crisp, with flavors echoing the nose, complemented by fine, persistent bubbles and a long, complex finish.
In terms of food pairing, Champagne’s high acidity and bubbles make it one of the most versatile wines. Brut Champagne is a classic match for a wide array of dishes ranging from oysters, sushi, and caviar to hard cheeses and poultry. Extra brut can complement dishes like shellfish or light, delicate fish, while Demi-Sec Champagne, with its sweetness, pairs excellently with dessert or even spicy food. Regardless of the occasion, Champagne’s versatility can enhance just about any culinary experience.
- Geen apple
- Dryness level varies from Brut Nature (no added sugar) to Demi-Sec (sweet)
- Delicate aromas of citrus, green apple, and pear
- Nuances of brioche, almond, and vanilla due to yeast contact during aging
- Fresh and crisp palate with fine bubbles and a long, complex finish
BEST PAIRED WITH:
- Hard Cheeses
- Spicy Food
- Brut: Oysters, sushi, caviar, hard cheeses, poultry
- Extra Brut: Shellfish, light fish
- Demi-Sec: Desserts, spicy food
- Versatile pairing for any occasion
- Dryness: Brut Nature (no added sugar) to Demi-Sec (sweet)
- Acidity: High
- Body: Light-bodied
- Tannins: None
38–45°F / 3-7°C
Is Spumante Sweet? Champagne Dry? It’s all about balance
I see a common misconception that all sparkling wines are sweet, and while it is true that some varieties like Asti Spumante, others like Champagne, can be dry. The sweetness levels vary depending on the type of grape used and the production method employed. However, there’s one crucial factor in determining whether a wine tastes sweet or dry – the balance of acidity.
When I tasted both Asti Spumante and Champagne, they all had a high level of acidity, providing a crisp, refreshing feel on the palate. This acidity is essential in balancing out sweetness levels, ensuring that they don’t become overpowering and cloying. In Asti Spumante, the natural sugars from the Muscat grape are balanced by its higher acidity, creating a harmonious and well-rounded taste. Similarly, in Champagne, the dryness is counterbalanced by its lively bubbles and refreshing acidity, resulting in a complex and elegant flavor profile.
Asti Spumante vs. Champagne: Price Comparison
Asti Spumante is generally more affordable compared to Champagne, with an average price ranging from $10 to $20 per bottle. This makes it more accessible for regular enjoyment. Conversely, Champagne typically starts at around $40 for non-vintage bottles and can go well above $200 for renowned brands and vintage selections.
Many factors influence the pricing of sparkling wines.
Firstly, the production method significantly impacts the cost. Traditional methods, like the one used for Champagne, involve a second fermentation in the bottle and extended aging, both contributing to the expense.
Secondly, the type of grapes used and the cultivation costs in the region play a significant role. Certain grape varieties are more expensive to grow and harvest compared to others.
Lastly, the prestige and reputation of the wine region also contribute to the price. Regions with a long history and established reputation for producing high-quality wines often command higher prices.
Is Asti Spumante a good Champagne substitute?
While Asti Spumante and Champagne are both sparkling wines, they have distinct differences in taste and characteristics. Asti Spumante is sweeter, lighter, and more fruit-forward compared to the drier and more complex flavor profile of Champagne. However, if you enjoy a fruitier and sweeter wine or prefer a more budget-friendly option, then Asti Spumante can be an excellent substitute for Champagne.
Is Asti Spumante meant to be served chilled?
Yes, it is recommended to serve Asti Spumante chilled between 6-8 degrees Celsius (43-46 degrees Fahrenheit). Chilling the wine enhances its refreshing and crisp qualities and minimizes the sensation of sweetness on the palate. However, avoid over-chilling the wine as it can mask some of its aromas and flavors.
How long does Asti Spumante last after opening?
Asti Spumante is best enjoyed fresh, preferably within a day or two after opening the bottle. It’s natural sweetness and delicate fruit flavors may diminish with time, so it’s best to consume it while it’s at its best. To preserve the wine’s quality, store it in the refrigerator and use a wine stopper to keep it from going flat.
Can you age Asti Spumante?
No, Asti Spumante is meant to be consumed young and fresh. Its flavor profile does not benefit from aging, and its carbonation levels also decrease over time, resulting in a flatter and less enjoyable taste. It’s best to enjoy Asti Spumante within a year of purchase.
What is the difference between Moscato d’Asti and Asti Spumante?
Moscato d’Asti and Asti Spumante are both sparkling wines made from the Muscat grape, but they have distinct differences in production methods, sweetness levels, and alcohol content. Moscato d’Asti is lightly sparkling with low alcohol content (around 5-8%) and has a sweeter taste compared to Asti Spumante, which is produced using the traditional method with higher carbonation and alcohol levels (around 7-9%).
Can you use Asti Spumante for mimosas?
Yes, Asti Spumante can be used in place of Champagne for mimosas. Its sweet and fruity flavor profile adds a unique twist to the classic brunch cocktail. However, keep in mind that it will make the mimosa sweeter compared to using dry Champagne.
Which is better Spumante or Prosecco?
Spumante and Prosecco are both Italian sparkling wines, but they have different production methods and flavor profiles. Spumante is made using the traditional method and has a longer aging process, resulting in smaller bubbles and a more complex taste compared to Prosecco, which is produced using the Charmat method with larger bubbles and a fruitier taste.
How do you drink Asti Spumante?
Asti Spumante is a versatile wine that can be enjoyed in various ways. It’s best served chilled and can be enjoyed on its own as an aperitif or paired with light, sweet desserts like fruit tarts or sorbet. It also pairs well with savory dishes like cheese and charcuterie boards and spicy Asian cuisine. Experiment with different food pairings to find your preferred way of drinking Asti Spumante.
Asti Spumante and Champagne are sparkling wines with unique characteristics. Asti Spumante is sweeter and fruity, great if you’re looking for an affordable option. Champagne, on the other hand, is dry and complex, perfect for special occasions. Both wines give you a special experience and go well with different types of food.
So, why not grab a bottle of each on your next visit to the wine store? Compare the flavors, enjoy them with your favorite meals, and maybe even host a tasting party at home. There’s a whole world of sparkling wine waiting to be explored, so dive in and discover your new favorite!