Refreshingly easy to drink, this versatile, fruity, sparkling wine from the Veneto region of Northern Italy is now bubbling worldwide. Gaining acceptance as a less expensive alternative to Champagne, it is rapidly becoming the drink of choice for consumers seeking a fashionable, festive, sparkling wine which won’t break the budget.
Prosecco is both the name of the grape and wine, primarily grown in the hills from Conegliano and Valdobbiane,- the main areas of production in the Veneto region (just north of Venice). It is produced using the Charmat method whereby the secondary fermentation takes place in large steel vats. Contact with the yeast is brief which is why Prosecco is typically fresh, fruity and slightly aromatic.
In 2009 the Italian government recognized the distinctive geographic area of Coneglian and Valdobbiane by awarding it the prestigious DOCG status (Denominazione di Origine Controllata). The G stands for “Guaranteed” and basically ensures the winemakers must adhere to stricter guidelines than DOC wines. The primary difference is these wines must undergo an in-depth chemical analysis and evaluation of a tasting committee before they can be bottled. They are then are sealed with a numbered governmental seal across the cap or cork.
Considering there are only 41 DOCG regions in Italy compared to 300 DOC this is a noteworthy allocation and entitles Prosecco extra prestige and recognition as an exclusive sparkling wine in its own right.
This newly acquired status can only help worldwide sales of Prosecco which have already increased visibly according to Mondial Wine. In the UK alone, sales have doubled; Pierpaolo Petrassi Senior Product Development Manager for Italy at Tesco explains, “Prosecco is stylistically appropriate for UK consumers who are not looking for more structured, (usually) drier and more premium-priced Champagne.”. It is traditionally served without food and is fresh in style.
In America; “Prosecco is on fire and will continue to grow as consumers look for alternatives to high-priced Champagne,” says Leonardo LoCascio, president and CEO of Winebow Inc.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, consumption of Italian sparkling wines grew 14 percent, up to 16.7 million litres from 14.7 million litres the previous year. This growth includes other popular sparkling wines coming out of Italy, such as Oltrepo’Pavese, Asti Spumante and the prestigious Franciacorta. A crisp and elegant sparkling wine, it is often compared to Champagne, as it uses the same grape varieties and production method (methode Champenoise) where secondary fermentation takes place in bottles. Though lower in cost, Francicorta undergoes even stricter regulations than Champagne regarding maximum yield and maturation time. It is produced in much smaller quantities than Prosecco, but it is another of Italy’s sparkling wines gaining worldwide recognition and accolade.
It is not only the Americans and Europeans who are embracing Italian sparkling wines with such fervour, sales in Hong Kong (regarded as the Asian hub) recorded a dramatic rise of 81.2% in terms of value.
In December last year, Italian farmers' union Coldiretti said that exports of Italian sparkling wine would exceed domestic consumption for the first time. It said Prosecco was showing "dynamic" growth in foreign markets. Around 340m bottles of sparkling wine were produced in Italy in 2009, with around 160m bottles supporting the new Prosecco DOC and DOCG denominations.
Most commonly drunk on its own, Prosecco also makes for an enticing cocktail. Undoubtedly the most famous Prosecco based cocktail would be the Bellini, from the renowned “Harrys Bar in Venice”Frequented by the Genre of Ernest Hemingway, Oscar Wilde and Henry Fonda, Harrys Bar has always been a destination for an artistic entourage.The Bellini cocktail was invented by its owner back in the 40’s andaccording to their Head Barman it still remains the most popular drink onthe menu – “perfect whatever the time, whatever the season”.
The Bellini is prepared with freshly squeezed white peach juice and prosecco, served in a chilled Champagne flute. The perfect end to a perfectday.