Prosecco. It’s not from Paris.

Prosecco is Italy’s most famous Sparkling Wine. And it’s starting to grab our attention in a seriously big way. In fact, its spritz-ing, pirouetting and fizzing its way into more of our glasses than ever before.  While sales figures are a little hard to come by for Australia, Tesco’s in the UK, which is the world’s largest wine retailer, has seen Prosecco sales up 50% year on year, even outperforming its favoured rival champagne.[1]

But the image of Prosecco still needs a bit of a make over. It’s often regarded as Champagne’s enjoyable, but cheaper distant cousin. The ‘Eau de J-Lo’ to the Chanel No. 5.

Paris Hilton being the pin-up girl for the Austrian company Rich Prosecco and their ‘Prosecco-in-a-Can’, hasn’t done the variety any favours either. (The Italians are none too happy ’bout her neither.)

paris hilton rich prosecco

In fact, one of the biggest image problems Prosecco has is the mistaken belief that it is sweet.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Prosecco is a dry (that’s right, not sweet) sparkling wine made from the Prosecco (now also called ‘glera’) grape variety traditionally produced in the Conegliano and Valdobbiadene regions of north-eastern Italy.

Today though the grape has spread far, and regions like Australia’s own King Valley in Victoria, are producing some outstanding examples of Prosecco.

The dryness is generally measured in three ranges with the least dry and fruitiest of the Proseccos confusingly being called ‘dry’ followed by ‘extra dry’ with ‘brut’ being the driest of them all.

Delicate and delectable, it has less alcohol than Champagne and softer bubbles. The other characteristics that make it different from Champagne – aside from being made of different grape varieties – are largely attributable to its different method of production.

In basic terms, both start with a fermented base wine. However, for traditional method champagne, sugar and yeast is added to this base wine and a second fermentation takes place in the bottle where the yeast slowly releases that bready-biscuity complexity.

For Prosecco, the secondary fermentation occurs in a steel tank and once the yeast ferments it is discarded.  The result is a very fresh and light fruit-driven sparkling with aromas of pear, apple and stone fruit that’s a perfect celebratory, pre-dinner or ‘anytime whatsoever’ drop.

It’s also the classic ingredient in a peach Bellini which is, in my opinion, no place to put that Billecart-Salmon champagne.

prosecco in a glass

Our pick of Prosecco

Prosecco Road and other locals

Let’s start in our own backyard at ‘Prosecco Road’ in King Valley’s wine region found in north-eastern Victoria.  Prosecco Road is a food and wine trail created by several of Australia’s premier Prosecco producers including Otto Dal Zotto, Brown Brothers, Chrismont, Ciccone, Pizzini and Sam Miranda.  Put it this way, if there was one garden path I would want to be led up, this is it. But Prosecco is also being produced with success in other cooler regions, like the Adelaide Hills.

LaZona Prosecco Chrismont, King Valley – Apple and lemon on the nose, crisp and bubbly with a citrus finish.  Fresh, light and just oh so easy.  Put with seafood and light summer salads.  (Price: around $22)  www.chrismont.com.au

Dalz Otto Pucino Prosecco, King Valley – Pears and green apple on the nose, the palate adds some white peach and zest to bring about a crisp, very dry finish.  With more complexity than some proseccos this has enough gusto to match lightly cured meats. (Price: around $18.50) www.dalzotto.com.au

Brown Brothers Prosecco NV, King Valley –  Vibrant apple and pear flavours with a good whack of lemon, but somehow still retains a softness and good balance on the palate. Truly refreshing. Guzzle with Bruschetta smothered in goats cheese, thyme and a drizzle of honey. www.brownbrothers.com.au (Price: around $16 .00)

Coriole Vineyards Prosecco, Adelaide Hills – A superb example from outside of Prosecco Road.  It has light flavours of apricot, peach, green apples and citrus. A well balanced fizz to put with canapés.  (Price: around $25)  www.coriole.com

flourish

The Italian job         

Now over to the land of Vespas, Sophia Loren and men in well-cut suits to sample how they do it… They’re a little harder to find. But look out for them in good bottle shops and on good wine lists.

Case Bianche Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry DOCG, Valdobbiadene Italy – a palate of apple, white peach and subtle citrus.  It’s pleasantly dry, with a light fizz and delicate finish.   A fine example of Italians doing it at their best.   Good friends are all that’s needed.  Otherwise, I would say oysters, scallops and crab.  www.colsandago.com

Quartese Ruggeri DOC Prosecco, Valdobbiadene Italy – With green apples, light honey, apricot and a touch of citrus, it makes for a stunning aperitif.  Go Italian style and put with rockmelon and prosciutto. (Price: around $30 from independent fine wine retailers)

Foss Marai Roos Brut Spumante – Finally, a wild card for the risk takers.  It’s a blend with a rosy shade and not something we are used to in a Prosecco variety.  Dry and crisp it rounds out with strawberries and cream.  An easy drop for a casual afternoon tea with the gals. www.fossmarai.com

This glam spritz is no longer champagne’s forgotten cousin, nor an ill-considered business venture of a certain hotel heiress; it’s a versatile set of bubbles making a mark in its own right.   Now, that’s reason enough to pop the Prosecco!

(Joanna would like to thank Brisbane’s InCider Trading for their assistance with providing Prosecco for tasting.)

[1] L Shaw, ‘Prosecco outperforming champagne in UK’, The Drinks Business, <http://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2013/01/prosecco-outperforming-champagne-in-uk/>  2 January 2013 (retrieved 8 April 2013).