Prosecco is an Italian white sparkling wine made from whites grapes of the same name. It’s a refreshing, fruit-persistent bubbly wine that is a unique and less costly alternative to traditional champagne. The name Prosecco is derived from the northern Italian village of Prosecco (Trieste), where the grape is believed to have originated. Prosecco is one of the oldest wine grapes in Italy, with production of the sparkling wine dating back to Roman times.
The grape is grown mainly in the Veneto region of Italy, traditionally in an area near Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, in the hills north of Treviso. The name “Prosecco” can only be applied to wine that is made from a variety of white grapes of the same name. The wine comes in semi-sparkling (frizzante), or fully sparkling (spumante) and often labeled as “Extra dry” or “Brut.” A Brut Prosecco is one that is very dry and less sweet, with less than 16 grams of sugar per liter. An Extra Dry Prosecco has 12-20 grams of sugar per liter, still dry with a hint of sweetness or slightly sweet.
Prosecco is a wine meant to be drunk young, while it’s still light and refreshing, within a year to 18 months of bottling. At under $15/bottle, it’s not a wine to be saved only for major celebrations, but a fun wine to be enjoyed with a variety of foods and occasions.
The wine’s color is pale straw-yellow with greenish tinges. The nose has a delicate, fruity, characteristic, and the taste is well-orchestrated, palatable and pleasant. With its crisp taste and essences of apple, pear and peach, the wine is very palatable to American tastes and easy to drink. Prosecco is ideal as an aperitif, with a snack, or served with cold first courses including seafood and light pasta dishes. It is a perfect, refreshing sparkling beverage as well as a fantastic option for holiday toasts, cocktails and special occasions.
Prosecco is protected as a DOC within Italy, an Italian abbreviation for “Denominazione di Origine Controllata” or “Controlled Denomination of Origin” which is a certification given to wines. The initials D.O.C. are placed on wine labels of reserved wines to certify that the wine complies with the requirements established for specific production regulations as well as national and community legislation. The D.O.C. indicates the geographical location where the wine must be produced, that it has met the standards of grape variety, color, flavor, aroma, acidity, alcohol content, period of aging, and the maximum yield required by the producer for certification. Only wine adhering to these precise regulations can be labeled with the D.O.C. geographical indication.
From 2009, this designation will be promoted to DOCG, “Denominazione di Origine Controllata Garantita,” status by the Italian government, which is the country’s highest level of quality. It’s a mark designed to improve quality control and which will limit further use of the Prosecco name. As of the 2009 vintage, Prosecco grapes will be labeled as “Glera” grapes. DOCG and DOC Prosecco must contain at least 85 percent of Glera grapes, and can also contain a maximum of 15 percent of grapes Verdiso, Bianchetta Trevigiana, or Perera.
Grapes are hand picked, then go through grape stalk removal and crushing. The grape juice, skins and seeds are passed to the press, where a soft pressing separates the skins and seeds from the “Must” (grape juice). An initial alcoholic fermentation is created in a temperature-controlled stainless steel tank to produce the base wine.
Prosecco’s effervescent bubbly characteristic is produced during a secondary fermentation using the “Italian Charmat” or tank method, which differs from the classic champagne method as the fermentation takes place in an enclosed tank instead of in the bottle. This method greatly reduces the expense and time needed to produce the wine. The idea was perfected by an Italian man named Eugene Charmat in the 1900s. He discovered that fermenting the grapes using a large, pressurized stainless steel tank (autoclave), coated on the inside with a vitrified glaze, creates wines resistant to attack by wine and sulphuric acids.
Carbonation occurs naturally due to the decomposition of the grape sugar by yeasts resulting in a sparkling wine where the natural fragrances of the grapes are better preserved. The secondary fermentation takes place in these sealed tanks for 30 days. The wine is then promptly bottled and released. Traditional Prosecco had strings hand-tied over and around the cork to prevent the carbonation from prematurely lifting it. Today all Prosecco is bottled in traditional glass, with a cork and traditional string or a Stelwin screw cap.
Wines designated as “Vino da Uve da Agricultura Biologica” are made with certified organic grapes, certified in Italy by BIOS. Those wineries seeking a high quality organic certification designation grow their grapes to adhere to the strict organic rules set by set by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and administered by the National Organic Program (NOP) within the United States Department of Agriculture. Wines that are made with certified organic grapes are grown without the use of: most conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge, bioengineering or ionizing radiation. In addition, the wine is produced and bottled in a certified-organic facility.
Prosecco has been quite popular in Europe since the 80s, and began to make a splash in the U.S. market in the early 2000s. According to a 2008 The New York Times report, Prosecco has sharply risen in popularity in markets outside Italy, with global sales growing by double-digit percentages since 1998, aided also by its comparatively low price. Approximately 150 million bottles of Italian Prosecco are produced annually.
Prosecco has long been used for specialty cocktails including the famous “Belini” created by Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy somewhere between 1934 and 1948. The cocktail combines traditional Prosecco with peach puree, and remains one of this Italian region’s most popular cocktails. The “Kir Royale” cocktail combines Prosecco with Cassis (a blackcurrant flavored liqueur) and Prosecco is often used as a base for a variety of sparkling punches, perfect for larger parties and celebrations.
Many Italian vineyards have a long-standing history of Prosecco production, run by multi-generational growers. For example, the Pizzolato family has been working in the Italian agriculture sector for more than five generations, while living in harmony with nature and the environment by producing certified organic grapes. La Cantina Pizzolato estate is located in the rich and flourishing countryside in the north of Treviso, Italy and the vineyards are situated on the plains and hillsides, in the Veneto region. The estate covers an area of 58 hectares and it also collaborates with five other producers which contribute certified organic grapes grown on area of 48 hectares.
The winery produces a variety of Prosecco wines, including their popular Prosecco Veneto, a gold medal winner in the 2008 Denver International Wine Competition. According to Denver Wine Examiner’s Randy Caparoso, La Cantina Pizzolato’s Prosecco Veneto has “Flowery, peach fuzz fragrance (is) mingled with light, warming, yeasty whiffs of rising bread. My only issue: the wine is so soft and easy that a bottle is usually finished before we’re through making dinner. But boy, is it refreshing, especially if you’re standing over the hot stove, frying up some shrimp scampi, with a pot of hot water going for the linguine and some sautéed zucchini simmering on the side.”
Ed Field received a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Management from the University of Southern Oregon, and he is certified in International Trade by the Spanish Institute of International Trade (ICEX) and the Spanish Chamber of Commerce Council. Ed and his wife Pilar launched Natural Merchants in 2000, which focuses on distribution of fine organic and natural foods of the Mediterranean.