The enjoyment of sparkling wine has grown dramatically worldwide, and Prosecco is an increasingly popular example of sparkling wine. Bubbles are “chill” (poor attempt at humour), so more and more often, we are quaffing this engagingly soft and less expensive sparkling from Italy’s Veneto region. Prosecco has come a long way, in just a short time.
The crowd-pleasing versatility of Prosecco is a big contributor to its success; it can vary from dry to sweet and from slightly sparkling (Frizzante) to full sparkling (Spumante). Overall, though, Prosecco’s acid levels are lower; it has lower alcohol levels, which lends itself to being more accessible on Sunday afternoons; the wine is fruitier; and the frothy mousse of bubbles are light and soft in your mouth — it is delightful in every way!
Unlike Champagne, most Proseccos are made with a grape named Glera (now synonymous with Prosecco) and are made in the Charmat Method (also known as Tank Method, or Metodo Martiniotti, as the Italians say). The Charmat Method has the second bubble-inducing fermentation taking place in a stainless steel tank, rather than in individual bottles. The result is a fruitier, fresh flavour, which is easier to produce and, therefore, produced at a lower expense than Champagne. Don’t confuse your Prosecco with your Champagne, and keep your expectations realistic — you won’t get the yeasty, complex, and developing qualities found in the best Champagnes from your Prosecco, but you will find high fruit, fresh flavour and a fantastic sparkling wine. Remember that Prosecco and Champagne are two different monsters… both with their own merit.
Prosecco production has also become quite prestigious; in 2009 Prosecco made in the Conegliano and Valdobbiadene region in Veneto, Italy, reached DOCG status (highest Italian law). We are seeing “more serious” Proseccos that are drier, and made with higher acidity and finer bubbles. These elevated Proseccos can pair nicely with more serious, intense and finer cuisine. Although most Proseccos are made to be consumed when they are young and fresh, some of these finer Proseccos can be aged and will improve over a few years in the cellar.
We used to think of sparkling wine only during celebratory events and holidays, but these days North Americans are turning toward sparkling wine for more sophisticated dishes, as our food and wine world has evolved. Because it is fresh and lively, Prosecco can be enjoyed in so many ways: from a light drink at a patio or pool party, with hors d’oeuvres at a reception (one of my favourite pairings is melon wrapped in prosciutto, served with Prosecco when your guests arrive), to a pairing with seafood dishes and lighter, creamy sauces. Prosecco is also a fantastic addition to Asian spiced cuisine (another favourite is Thai spiced mussels), and fish tacos… the list is extensive.
As our search for better food and finer wine evolves, we will continue to see Prosecco lead a charge. We must encourage ourselves to look for and create more opportunities to try out this vivacious bubble. When thinking of what to serve at receptions, patios, dinner parties, and picnics, remember to include Prosecco — it is always a crowd pleaser that will not let you down.
Open a bottle and start a party!
By Stuart Brown inside the spring 2014 issue of NICHE