Monday, October 19, 2015

TNV Guide to Prosecco – Italian Sparkly Goodness

Since we’ve been on a bit of a sparkling wine kick around here, let’s take a look at another star of the world of inexpensive bubbles: Prosecco, the official sparkling wine of brunches from sea to shining sea. When you run across cocktails like mimosas, kir royales, or bellinis, odds are that the sparkler used to fizz the drink up will be Prosecco. So, what is the stuff?

Kir Royale...because Prosecco makes you happy.
First off, as you probably already know, Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine. As with most Italian wines, “Prosecco” does not refer to the grape that the wine is made from. Prosecco is actually a village in the growing region where the grape is said to have originated. The Prosecco DOC is the term for the actual growing region, which encompasses parts of the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia regions.

Prosecco is not the name of a grape, at least not anymore. The primary grape varietal used to make Prosecco is called Glera. The grape itself was known as both Prosecco and Glera until 2009, when Italy officially started using Glera as the sole name of the grape to avoid confusion.  Other grapes can be included in the mix, such as Pinot Grigio, but there must be at least 85% Glera.

Prosecco comes in three varieties: spumante, meaning sparkling -- the most common version; frizzante, meaning semi-sparkling; and tranquillo, meaning a still wine – which you’ll rarely see outside of the Veneto. There are also designations for levels of sweetness, which are a bit counterintuitive. Brut is the most dry and the most common; Extra dry, which is slightly sweeter; and Dry, which is the sweetest. 

Most Prosecco you will commonly encounter will be labeled “Prosecco DOC” – meaning that the grapes are all from the growing region. The higher quality stuff will be labeled “Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG” – which I will let you explore at your leisure.

The wine is produced slightly differently from other sparkling wines. Rather than the Methode Champenoise (known as Metodo Classico in Italy) style, where the wine is carbonated in bottle through secondary fermentation, Prosecco is carbonated in stainless steel tanks and bottled under pressure, which is known as the Charmat process or Metodo Italiano. This method allows for a less expensive production.

Prosecco is relatively low in alcohol – usually around 11-12%, which is why it’s so popular for brunches. It’s usually drunk as an aperitif or, as I mentioned before (and will mention again in a bit), used as a cocktail mixer. Like most Italian wines of any stripe, it’s exceptionally food friendly – and can be broken open with almost anything. It really shines with bacon, believe it or not. Prosecco tends to be relatively inexpensive. Most bottles will run between $10-20. Serve it well chilled.
I recently came into a few bottles for sampling from Kelly at Colangelo. All of these are Prosecco DOC versions:

Mionetto Brut Prosecco DOC – This prosecco had a distinct yeasty aroma when first cracked. Along with the yeast, there were flavors of apples and pears on the palate. This was one of the least carbonated Prosecco that I’ve had the chance to try. While listed as “spumante” – it seemed much more in the “frizzante” range. The overall effect was that of drinking a very dry, slightly bubbly hard cider. On its own, it was not my favorite Prosecco. It did make a nice accompaniment to some roasted vegetable “paninis” (we didn’t have the right bread, but we did have some whole wheat naan – worked well enough!) that we put together with assorted items from our CSA share and basil pesto from our patio container garden. Side note: Mionetto is the largest exporter of Prosecco.

Jeio Brut Prosecco DOC – Vvery different character with this bottle. Considerably more carbonated than the Monetto, it also didn’t have those particular yeast characteristics. Instead, this one sported a much more delicate, floral nose to go along with a fresh flavor of green apples and a touch of lemony citrus. The finish is dry and crisp. We had this alongside some leftover Minestrone soup and some flavored pita chips and it paired nicely. I think it would be a fantastic brunch bottle. I declare this one officially tasty.

La Gioiosa Prosecco DOC Treviso – The “DOC Treviso” means that the grapes are sourced from
around the village of Treviso, Of the three, this is the one I liked the feel of the best. I thought it had the right amount of sparkle and a certain richness to the flavor that I enjoyed. There’s a refreshing lemon bite at first sip, which quickly calms down into some nice key lime pie flavors. The bubbles keep the train moving across the palate, and the finish is long and lemony. I had this one as an aperitif over a couple of days. (A sparkling wine stopper makes a great stocking stuffer!) Super pleasant for sipping and conversation. Another point in its favor – the bottle looks pretty darned cool.

As I mentioned, Prosecco works well on its own, but the brut versions work exceptionally well as a mixer. For your next brunch or party, here are some Prosecco cocktails you can try:

  • Mimosa – fill a sparkling wine flute halfway with Prosecco. Fill with orange juice.
  • Kir Royale – add ½ oz. of crème de cassis (I prefer Chambord) to a wine flute. Fill with Prosecco. For an extra fancy presentation, add a few fresh raspberries and watch ‘em float around.
  • Bellini – add a couple of ounces of peach puree or peach nectar to a flute. Top up with Prosecco.
  • Sorrento Sparkle – add a shot of chilled limoncello liqueur to a flute. Top up with Prosecco.


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