A prosecco shortage?!
You might have seen the doomsday headlines in the UK dailies that forewarned of a looming prosecco shortage. Have no fear! The word on the street is that this year is going to be a fantastic year for the bubbly. Prosecco, well known as the key ingredient of the bellini (along with white peach juice), has grown over the past years in popularity, and status, as a serious contender to champagne, even as a stand-alone beverage. With prosecco’s distribution growing faster than ever before, and with more and more options to choose from, it helps to know a few tricks of the trade to guarantee that your next glass is exceptional.
How to spot a good bottle
First look for the DOCG label. The Consortium for the Protection of Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG is an organization that protects the tradition, heritage, and image of the production of prosecco superior in a small, but prestigious area between the small towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. If you can’t remember the names of the towns, the DOCG label will guarantee that it comes from the right area. Just an hour’s drive north of Venice, the picturesque countryside is dotted with vineyards, perched on the side of hills so steep, they seem to defy gravity. In fact the area is so beautiful that it has just submitted an application to be a UNESCO World Heritage site. The constant moderate temperatures in winter, combined with dry, hot summers make this the perfect landscape for Glera grape. The wine variety is native to the Veneto region, which makes up 85% of prosecco.
What makes DOCG superior?
“What makes the DOCG prosecco superior so special is the land. It’s the number one factor in distinguishing our prosecco from other sparkling wines, and translates directly in the freshness, taste, and bouquet that our wines are known for,” Giancarlo Vettorello, Director of the Consortium Conegliano Valdobbiadene says. “You can plant chardonnay grapes anywhere, but it won’t become champagne. In the same verse, our land and its unique climate, along with our long heritage and traditional production methods, make it a unique wine. It has little pretense that will put a smile on your face, guaranteed.”
DOCG superior labels graced 79 million bottles last year. This is a remarkable fact if you consider it is produced in an area that is only 20,000 hectares large. DOCG prosecco superior can be found in over 80 countries with Europe’s largest markets in Germany and Switzerland; the United Kingdom is coming up fast in third. It just seems like everywhere you go nowadays you can find at least one prosecco option on the supermarket shelf as more and more consumers are starting to favor prosecco over champagne for their celebrations.
Types of prosecco wines
Prosecco wines come in three varieties: spumante (sparkling), frizzante (semi-sparkling) and tranquillo (still) all made from the glera grape. It is combined with other grape varieties, but in a quantity that does not exceed 15% (Verdiso, Penera, Bianchetta grapes). The sparkling version is better known and has a larger international distribution in brut, extra dry, and dry versions. The semi-sparkling and still varieties are less well known to the global marketplace as is Cartizze, which is the most exclusive version produced in a micro area within the DOCG zone. This small production takes place on land with the oldest soil and the best microclimate in the area. The one million bottles of Cartizze produced annually are destined primarily for the Italian market, so be sure to stock up on this variety when you arrive in an Italian port. The grapes in the DOCG zone are all harvested strictly by hand, with the steep terrain making it impossible for mechanical cultivation. Italy’s first oenological school was formed in this area, and still works today with vine grown to support development and production methods.
The go-to beverage?
Even in the most prestigious settings worldwide, prosecco is becoming a go-to beverage for every occasion. Vettorello elaborates, “People appreciate prosecco’s ability to adapt to every context and, even in the most exclusive environments, customers are striving for more informality in their lives. Prosecco is easy to drink in every setting, and it pairs well with so many foods and culinary delicacies.”
What about Champagne?
Most champagne is dry with a high acidity level that compliment shellfish, pickled, fried, and salty foods. Prosecco bubbles, on the other hand, are lighter, easier to drink, and are aged in large tanks with less pressure so they lend themselves nicely to pairings with sweeter foods, fruits, cured meats, and Asian dishes. As a stand-alone beverage, it should ideally be served in larger tulip shaped wine glasses, not in flutes as one does with champagne, and it should remain chilled. Unlike champagne, prosecco is best consumed within 18-24 months of bottling to offer the best wine profile.
Spot the difference
Most people are quick to note that champagne is from France and prosecco is from Italy; however, the differences don’t stop there. The grapes are different, as is the production process; champagne is now getting some stiff competition as the default beverage for any celebratory toast. Perceptions are changing indeed, with consumers favoring small family-run boutique producers carefully crafting wine steeped in history, all aspects that the DOCG prosecco superior offer.
The Consortium started in 1962, representing 11 of the most prestigious wine producers which today include not only bottlers but the winemakers and growers as well. It supervises all stages of production, from planting to pruning, establishing the date of harvest and safeguarding every step of the wine process.