Romance abounds this time of year with thoughts of both festive events with loved ones and candlelit dinners bearing thoughtful surprises for our sweethearts. How could we possibly forget a bottle of bubbly? We are off again to northeast Italy, back to the home region of Romeo and Juliet, The Veneto, to explore one of the hottest wine trends in the U.S. today- Prosecco (proh SAY koh).
Champagne and Prosecco are both (usually dry) sparkling wines, however this is where their similarity typically ends.
Champagne is about breeding. Pristine, highly regulated, labor intensive, aged in the bottle for a minimum of two years to a dense complexity, pricey and complex (as it should be). Prosecco is about freshness — light, fruity and uncomplicated, with a refreshing, creamy fizz. It’s is also very reasonably priced. The Veneto’s prolific native Prosecco grape, and the less expensive “Charmat” bulk process (fermented twice in large stainless steel tanks) allows a large quantity of sparkling wine to be produced in a short time. Thus, the wine is ready for bottling and consumption immediately, making it far more cost-effective.
Prosecco is always Brut or extra dry, and the majority comes in one of two “fizz levels.” Prosecco Frizzante (Frizzantino) is only slightly spritzy, while the Spumante version is fully sparkling. The difference is easy to identify. Fully sparkling, Prosecco Spumante is sealed with a “mushroom” shaped cork and a wire cage as is Champagne or the sweet Italian favorite, Asti. Prosecco Frizzante is either topped with a regular cork bound to the neck of the bottle with string (a.k.a. Prosecco Legatura), with a crown cap like you would find on a beer bottle, or most recently, with a twist cap.
We have been intimidated by the stigma of many sparkling wines over the years. Prosecco is sparkling wine that’s easy to like, be shared and enjoyed, without meditation.
Perhaps boggling to the American mind, the people of The Veneto are not hiding away, locked in their chambers giggling and clinking their glasses in self congratulation for the mystique they have created. They are drinking it. It’s on the table, and in the kitchen. It’s sent out to the fields in the men’s lunch pails, in every restaurant, bar and trattoria. In the afternoon, tables outside the local watering holes are surrounded by rugged workmen washing down the day’s dust with bottles of Prosecco! It’s everywhere!
There are carefully crafted, more serious versions made from grapes judiciously selected from the best vineyard areas. (Valdobbiadene is probably the most highly regarded sub-zone in the region). Delicately complex wines exhibiting softly delicious, sensual, elegant, fresh, widely food-friendly, easy-going characteristics… and moderately priced!
This holiday season grab some Prosecco to share for your cocktail hour gatherings and simply enjoy each other’s company! Buone Feste!
Mionetto “il Prosecco,” extra dry, Spumante — Pretty flavors of strawberries in cream are enhanced by the creamy fizz. A lovely cocktail wine which will shine with an elegant breakfast like eggs Benedict or strawberry filled crépes. Until quite recently Mionetto’s “il Prosecco” has come to us as a frizzante style, with a beer-y crown cap, but the pioneer of Prosecco in the Midwest has now stepped up its game in this most recent release!
Lamarca Prosecco Brut, Spumante — So much like biting into a fresh white peach you can feel the fuzz in the fizz. A tart, juicy sweetness from the fresh fruit flavors whole retaining a creamy richness from start to finish, with a persistent stream of bubbles creating a mousse covering the top of the glass.