Woman on Wine with Amy Reiley
If you’ve followed my Woman on Wine column for long, you know I don’t shy away from a good glass of bubbles. But despite my infatuation with sparkling wine, I really haven’t taken the time to explore Prosecco with you. And since I’m frequently asked “What is Prosecco?”, I thought it was a topic worth exploring together.
The simple answer to the question, “What is Prosecco?” is that it’s an Italian sparkling wine. It comes from Italy’s north. It is made predominantly from a thin-skinned grape called Glera. Glera is a fairly acidic grape that generally produces floral wines with low alcohol–perfect for sparkling wine!
What is Prosecco vs What is Champagne
Although Prosecco offers a fizz similar to Champagne, the bubbles in Prosecco are achieved through a very different method. Most Prosecco undergo what is typically called the Charmat or Italian method of secondary fermentation, which occurs in large tanks. (In Champagne, the bubbles develop in the bottle.) First the base wine is added to the tank, then sugar and yeast are added to trigger the fermentation.
Charmat is quicker than the traditional method, also known as méthode champenoise. This means Prosecco is not only cheaper to produce but it makes for wines that retain far more freshness than those that undergo secondary fermentation in the bottle.
So when someone asks you, “What is Prosecco?,” you can tell them it’s a type of Italian sparkling wine that offers a fresh, usually fruity flavor, low alcohol and typically represents good value. And it’s a suitable choice for any occasion you feel calls for sparkling wine. For you, that might be a romantic dinner, to toast an achievement or celebrate brunch with friends. For me, it’s Friday. (Yes, I really do drink sparkling wine every Friday.)
However, not all Prosecco are created equally. Which is why you might look at a wine shelf and see one Prosecco marked $5.99 while another is closer to $29.99. You might be wondering what the difference is and how you know you are getting a good wine for the money. Sometimes, it’s hard to know. But I’ll let you in on one important indicator of quality.
Understanding a Prosecco wine label
If you look at a Prosecco label, you might see the letters DOC or DOCG. These mean Denominazione d’Origine Controllata and Denominazione d’Origine Controllata e Garantita respectively. Both are legal quality indicators. DOC Prosecco come from one of nine provinces within Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia. But there’s a lot of room for variation within the DOC distinction. DOCG on the other hand, is an indicator of more precise rules and higher quality standards.
Because nothing in Italian wine could ever be simple, there are multiple, even more precise designations within DOCG. The wines that I’ve chosen to feature in my tasting notes this month are all Valdobbiadene Superiore Prosecco DOCG. This means they come from grapes grown on the hills between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene in the Treviso province. It is the heart of Prosecco production and at the top level of designations. (The best of the best are Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore di Cartizze DOCG.)
Now, there’s nothing wrong with taking a $6 bottle of Prosecco on a picnic but I wanted to help you understand what Prosecco is truly all about. And I think the best way to do that is to explore the Prosecco Superiore DOCG wines. After trying just one of these wines, I think you’ll agree that Prosecco can be as complex and challenging a wine as a Champagne or bubbly from one of the world’s other top sparkling wine regions.
The wine recommendations
Ca’ Di Rajo Cuvee del Fondatore Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Millesimato Brut
This is a delightful wine for day drinking, (and at 11% alcohol–why not?) It’s a pale, golden wine with luscious floral and tropical aromas. It offers good structure and refreshing acidity that make me want to drink it all day long.
Anna Spinato Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut
This is my pick for a pre-dinner Prosecco. A lovely, feminine wine, it offers apple and stone fruit aromas. It offers stone fruit flavors and Meyer lemon acidity. It has a faint sweetness that makes me crave salty finger foods.
Riva dei Frati Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Dry
This wine was more pale and more gentle than most of the Prosecco I tried for this article. On the nose it gave off the perfume of honeysuckle. Ripe melon, particularly honeydew, was the predominant flavor but a hint of pineapple gave it a memorable flavor.
Val d’Oca Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Millesimato Extra Dry
This is a remarkably pretty wine. Perhaps it is too pretty for some because it kept making me think of ladies who lunch! Ultra-refined with floral aromas and an almost ethereally light body, it’s a wine for anyone who wants to drink something “lovely.”
La Gioioa Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Spumante Extra Dry
This wine easily rates among my all-time favorite Prosecco. It is more intense than most of the wines reviewed here. On the nose, there are freshly cut apple and floral aromas. On the palate, it bursts with unexpected papaya and dried mango flavors.
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