We hosted a great Prosecco event (zoom that is) on April 23; lots of fun, plenty of lively discussion! Here’s a bit of background on this happy festive wine.
To be completely upfront about this, there are actually three sides of Prosecco, two of them with bubbles, one without. We’re most familiar with the bubbly kind: the still version is rarely seen outside Italy and so for the purposes of this blog, Prosecco is a sparkling wine that originates from the Valdobbiadene region in Veneto, Italy. The name Prosecco and the grape varietal were pretty much synonymous until 2009, when Italian authorities decided to revert to the traditional name of the grape: Glera. This allowed for better control of Prosecco as a protected name: only wine originating in the designated region and made in the prescribed method can be called Prosecco.
All Prosecco wines are made predominantly from the Prosecco (Glera) grape, which must account for at least 85 percent of the final blend. For the white wines, the varieties permitted to make up the remaining 15 percent include some local varieties, and a few international options such as Chardonnay, depending on the decisions made by the wine maker. Prosecco Rosé, appearing first in late 2020 as a vintage dated wine, also must contain Glera (big percentage) and between 10 – 15% Pinot Noir vinified as red wine.
How Is Prosecco Made?
Although Prosecco is bubbly, it is not Champagne or Cava. It does start out the same: Glera grapes are harvested and fermented into a still wine called the base wine. In the case of Prosecco, this wine is then transferred to large tanks, where it is given a dose of sugar and yeast. The yeast then proceeds to eat away at the mixture resulting in alcohol and CO2. The tanks are sealed, preventing the CO2 from escaping, and voila, bubbles! Once fermentation has been stopped, the wine is transferred under pressure into bottles so none of the bubbles are lost. The production method is called Charmat. With Champagne and Cava, the secondary fermentation is done in each individual bottle. One obvious benefit of Charmat fermentation is lowered costs, hence the price tag on Prosecco is generally much lower than Champagne.
Frizzante: a light bubbly version. The wine is stabilized (stopped) before full fermentation, resulting is a slightly frizzy wine. It usually has only about 1.5 or so atmospheres of pressure, so a ‘Champagne’ cork stopper isn’t needed. Usually the bottle will sport either a screw cap or a regular cork stopper.
Spumante: a full bubbly version. The wine is allowed to ferment longer, resulting in more CO2 and more resulting pressure. Full spumante Prosecco has about 3 atmospheres of pressure (a little bit more than the air pressure found in most car tires).These wines will be sealed with the typical cork stopper you would see in Champagne and Cava. You can see the difference in the wines by watching the bubbles in your glass. Frizzante bubbles will be larger, and generally will dissipate rather quickly. Spumante bubbles will be smaller, and will persist for some time.
Which Is Better? It depends on occasion and preference. Both styles have their advocates, and both will express similar aroma and flavor profiles of green apple, melon, pear, honeysuckle, peach, and lemon, among others. Modern Prosecco Spumante is definitely earning a reputation as a sparkling wine style in its own right rather than as a cheap alternative to champagne.
Styles Of Prosecco
Most Prosecco wines are produced in a dry, brut style. Even though brut is the most popular sweetness level of Prosecco sold in the market today, you can find styles that are sweeter if you seek them out. Here is how Prosecco is labeled for sweetness:
•Brut 0–12 g/L RS (residual sugar) – Up to a half gram of sugar per glass
•Extra Dry 12–17 g/L RS – Just over a half gram of sugar per glass
•Dry 17–32 g/L RS – Up to 1 gram of sugar per glass
Prosecco DOC: The Prosecco DOC, or “Denominazione di Origine Controllata,” is the broadest geographic area where Prosecco can be produced. It is an Italian quality assurance designation that ensures that the bottle of wine in your hands is guaranteed to come from the legally delimited area and was made following specific winemaking practices and standards.
Prosecco Superiore DOCG: is a much smaller and exclusive geographic area where the highest quality Prosecco is produced. DOCG stands for “Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita” which loosely translates to “Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin”. This differs from DOC in that all wines labelled DOCG are guaranteed to be the highest quality example of the wine style as they are tasted by a committee prior to bottling. DOCG wines also have a much more strict set of rules in place that must be followed when producing the wine. For example, all grapes must come exclusively from vineyards in this smaller geographic area, and they must all be harvested by hand. Some DOCG Prosecco is also vintage dated.
Prosecco is wildly popular worldwide, outselling Champagne by a good margin. But it is not standing ‘still’: look for innovations such as ‘Col Fondo’, for lovers of pétillant naturel (pét-nat), natural-leaning and minimal intervention wines, this frizzante style offers a different take on Prosecco. Also on the horizon: Prosecco Brut Nature (less than 3 gm sugar/L) and capable of some serious ageing, and even Prosecco Methode Traditionelle, or Champagne Method (secondary fermentation in the bottle).
Here’s the skinny on what we tasted during the event. If you haven’t tried Prosecco, come to the store and talk to our knowledgeable staff. We’ve got a great selection of DOC and DOCG products, even a Rosé!
- Riondo Prosecco DOC Frizzante Dry 10.5% abv $17.49 750 ml
Riondo is an undisputed leader of viticulture in the Veneto region of Italy, with over 14,800 acres of vineyards. Named after the nearby Mount Riondo, Riondo is dedicated to the craft of producing Charmat Method DOC sparkling wines. The Riondo portfolio offers DOC proseccos that embrace the spirit of Italy, bringing people together to effortlessly enjoy, relax, and celebrate the bonds between friends and family. Winemaker’s Notes: This vino frizzante boasts fresh aromas of golden delicious apple, pear, and acacia blossom. Its persistent effervescence is followed by a crisp, clean finish. While delicate and fruity on the palate, this prosecco is the perfect choice to either sip by itself or mix to make a bubbly cocktail.
- Pasqua Prosecco DOC Spumante Extra Dry 11% abv $15.99 750 ml
The story of Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine began in 1925 when the first generation of the Pasqua brothers arrived in Verona, with the aim of founding a company dedicated to the sale of wines from their homeland, Puglia. In the 1960s the second generation joined the company, bringing an opening towards exports and an orientation towards quality. The Spumante is made in Treviso, the heart of Prosecco. Tasting Notes (courtesy Kerin O’Keefe,Winemag): Aromas of spring blossom and Bartlett pear emerge from the glass. The crisp palate offers green apple, white peach and lemon zest alongside vibrant acidity and continuous bubbles.
List Of Sources
Green, Martin, Prosecco DOCG Achieved Record Sales in 2019, 03 July, 2020, Drinks International
Karlsson, Per and Britt, The World Is Thirsty For Sparkling Wines, But Which Are The Winners?, May 8, 2020, Forbes
Mike and Jeff – the Sparkling Winos, Prosecco 101: What is Prosecco?
Mowery, Lauren, Everything You Need to Know About Prosecco, December 4, 2018, WineMag
Piubello, Alessandra, What’s new in Prosecco?, Decanter, February 21, 2021
Puckett, Madeline, The Prosecco Wine Guide, December 21, 2016, updated on May 18th, 2020, Wine Folly
Robinson, Jancis, editor, and Harding, Julia, assistant editor, The Oxford Companion To Wine, Fourth Edition, Oxford University Press, Great Clarendon Street, Oxford, United Kingdom, 2015
Statista Research Department, Global Sales Volumes of Sparkling Wine 2020, By Type, Feb 27, 2019