Prosecco has fast become one of the world’s favourite fizzes, it has had an undeniable meteoric rise in popularity.
Partly, the attraction is that fresh fruit effervescence. Another is the price and availability, especially when compared to the most famous bubbles, Champagne.
So what is Prosecco?
Prosecco is a sparkling wine made in North East Italy. It is made from a white grape variety called Glera, which up until 2009, was called Prosecco.
The grape is still called Prosecco in some countries such as Australia and was planted well and truly before the change. This is why if you live in Australia, you will be able to buy Australian grown Prosecco. Australian Prosecco is also of high quality and while it is very hard to find Australian Prosecco in Europe, it is available.
The Glera grape produces wines with that distinctive floral-fruity nature, with plenty of apple, pear and blossom. When very ripe, the grape also develops a more melon and stonefruit lushness.
How is it different to Champagne?
Popping of corks from either wine causes glasses to be immediately proffered, so what is the difference….
Not only do the grapes used to make these wines differ, they are usually made in a very different way. When making Prosecco, the second ferment that produces the bubbles that we all love can, and usually will, occur in a stainless steel tank, hence this method is called tank method or Charmat.
To read more about Prosecco vs Champagne, please click here.
Prosecco wines do not have the required extended contact with the ‘lees’ (dead yeast cells) that Champagne does. Therefore, they retain their signature fresh fruitiness. This fruitiness is often enhanced by the wines having a large dollop of sugar to soften and sweeten the wine.
A major benefit of using this tank method means Prosecco wines are quicker and less expensive to produce. It does mean, though, that the bubbles do not last as long as sparkling wines that have been made using the traditional method and are often less delicate too.
How to buy better Prosecco?
So…. there is Prosecco and then …. there is Prosecco …
It is a very sad fact. Wine is not like soft drink and it cannot be produced endlessly to suit our eager glasses if there are not enough grapes to do so. The vines that grow these grapes require some time to produce high quality grapes. Hence, my statement above.
To be able to supply this meteoric rise in Prosecco sales, many new vineyards had to be planted. Perhaps in vineyards that are either not capable of producing high quality grapes, or that will take longer to do so. Or, vines have been allow to produce more grapes than they used to and overcropping leads to grapes with less character and less sugars.
Here is one way to help navigate through Prosecco’s different quality levels. Luckily, if you look at the label you will see some easy to spot differences (although I am sure there are some exceptions to these rules.) Always look for the official neck label that should be present for any authentic Prosecco DOC or DOCG wine.
Prosecco Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) – The grapes grown in vineyards which are aimed at producing more basic wines will have the term Prosecco DOC on the label. These will be less expensive, perfect party wines or easy going drinking.
For the highest quality Prosecco wines, look for Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG, DOCG Superiore di Cartizze or Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG.
When the term DOCG appears on the neck of the bottleand the label, this is a sign that the wine fits into a higher quality level and this is guaranteed by the government. You should expect to pay more for these wines.
Click here to read more about these terms.
Brut or Dry … your choice!
While sweetness level does not necessarily reflect the quality of the prosecco, it can affect your enjoyment of the wine.
Like Champagne, Prosecco comes in different levels of sweetness, that is the amount of sugar that in the finished wine. That little extra sugar adds to the fruit weight and smooths out and softens the fresh acid that is common in any wine with bubbles.
Some of these descriptions are quite deceptive. At the drier end is ‘Brut’ 6-12 grams of sugar per litre and unexpectedly ‘Extra Dry’ and ‘Dry’ describing sweeter styles and are not really dry as you might anticipate.
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