Pennethorne's At Somerset House

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Pennethorne's Cafe Bar | The ELLE Mini Guide

Prosecco, cava, champagne, sparkling wine…what's the difference? Florent Buci from Somerset House’s new Pennethorne’s can enlighten you.


To be called champagne, sparkling wine has to be produced from grapes grown in the champagne area and made according to the ‘methode champenoise’  guidelines. This means fermented to be naturally bubbly (rather than being artificially carbonated, like some sparkling wines), and so kept in the bottle with the lees (sediment) for at least 15 months, three years plus for vintage.

The grapes most commonly used for making champagne and sparkling wines are pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay. Blanc de Blancs uses 100% chardonnay and Blanc de Noir uses pinot noir and pinot meunier.


Brut:  is the driest and goes with most food.

Extra Dry:  slightly less dry and more fruity: good as an aperitif or after-dinner drink.

Sec:  a little higher in sugar content

Demi-Sec:  slightly sweet wines which go well with dessert

Sparkling wine

Other regions (and countries) produce sparkling wines, some made by the same methode champenoise, but not always using traditional champagne grape varieties. In France some of the best of these are labelled ‘cremant’.

Prosecco vs cava

Prosecco may be way more popular (at the moment) but cava is actually closer to champagne, being made from a blend of grapes (often chardonnay, pinot noir and subirat) using the ‘methode tradicional’.  Made from one grape variety, glera, it is  usually fermented in steel tanks (not bottles), A few years ago Prosecco came exclusively from Valdobbiadene and Conegliano, now the area covers the whole of Treviso, but the best ones have DOCG Prosecco Valdobbiadene on the label. Generally less alcoholic than champagne (around11% abv rather than 12/ 12.5% abv), prosecco is also slightly sweeter (15-16g of sugar per litre to champagne’s 9-10g).

Top Bubbles

At Pennethorne`s Café Bar, below (New Wing, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA, 020 3751 0570, pennethornescafe.co.uk), we have a delicious Vaporetto Prosecco NV, which is soft, fruity and refreshing, with citrus, pear and floral flavours.


Elle UK