Other than it being the bottle of bubbly you reach for when you don’t have the cash for Champagne, what is Prosecco? Few know about its origins, except for the general vicinity of Italy and many don’t know what is in it. Shall we geek out now with some fun facts about Prosecco?
Where does it come from?
The vineyards start at fifty and go up to five-hundred meters (164 to 1640 feet) above sea level. Because the sun dips behind the hillsides quite early, the vines are only planted on the sunny sections while the rest has remained as the original forest on the north-facing slopes. Though the region is landlocked, it is located less than fifty miles from the sea. Thus, it is often influenced with breezes from the Adriatic Sea keeping the temperatures moderate and warmer during the summers balanced with cooler air from the Alps just to the north. During the growing season, days are dry with breezes coming from both directions winding in, around and through the valleys from each side, making for an arid climate. Temperatures do not exceed 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 Celsius) and on average dip down to a cool 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 Celsius) in the evening. The dry climate and wide range of temperatures with shorter days due to the steep and towering hillsides make for an ideal environment for one certain grape. It is the region’s signature fruit and their ancient heritage. The Glera grape.
A moment about Glera…
Glera, the sole grape for Prosecco, was originally named Prosecco, the name of a village nearby Trieste, where they believe the grape originated and cultivated as far back as Roman times.
It has been recorded that in the mid-1700s it was cultivated in other regions south and southeast from where it is grown today. However, in its previous home it was susceptible to rot and other disease and difficult to grow successfully. The cultivation of Glera in these regions diminished significantly by the mid-1800s and the region of Conegliano Valdobbiadene became the center of growing Prosecco with its fruit highly recognized by the Oenological Society.
The white berries are known for their delicate flavors and aromas and they truly thrive in Conegliano Valdobbiadene. The overall terroir, which includes soils consisting of limestone and ancient marine sandstone is what brings amazing structure to the wine. The bunch of grapes in itself is known for having very small berries with larger ones and everything in between. A mix of citrus is always complimentary to late summer orchard fruits and tantalizing minerality noticeable in the wine.
The Status of Conegliano Valdobbiadene & How to Read a Prosecco Wine Label…
If you are somewhat familiar with wine and have made note to certain terminology on wine labels, then you might be familiar with the acronyms DOC & DOCG. For those of you not familiar with them and to put it simply, the European Union has a hierarchy of how they classify wines in determining quality. Without going into all the details of Italian terminology, the hierarchy of wine starts at the bottom as ‘Table Wine’ (VdT-Vino da Tavola), Indication of a more specific geographic region (IGT), Controlled Region of Denomination (smaller-DOC) and an more ‘Traditional Controlled Geographic Region’ (DOCG).
The latter two are controlled and protected regions which recognize the tradition of winemaking in the region both in the type of grape grown and how the wine is made. In order for this to be present on a label, the winery must follow very specific guidelines. As you can imagine, it is not easy to be granted the status of DOCG. To give you an idea, in all of Italy there are 405 protected denominations (regions). There are only 73 which have been granted DOCG. Prosecco has been granted DOC and a smaller region Prosecco Colli Asolani was promoted to DOCG status only just recently in 2009.
So how do you know if you’re getting a quality Prosecco?
Look for the status of ‘Prosecco di Valdobbiadene DOC’ on the label, or in the case of Prosecco Colli Asolani, DOCG. The latter might say something like ‘Prosecco Superiore’. Read the label a little more and you may notice something similar to when you read a Champagne label regarding the style of the sparkling wine. As with Champagne, you have dry styles to sweeter styles. From the driest to the sweetest, here is what you may see; Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Seco/Dry, Demi-seco or Dulce (Doux). Unless it is a wine shop that loves to stock all sorts of Prosecco, you’ll probably only see Brut or Extra Dry.
On some labels, you might also see something like, ‘Metodo Italiano’. This means that when the bubbles are about to be added via the second fermentation, it is done so in a tank, not in the bottle as for Champagne. This method is similar to the Charmat method. It is bottled following the secondary fermentation. It does not mean the Prosecco is any lesser of a wine, but it sure does save some money for the consumer as there is no painstaking task of making each bottle by hand for months.
If you are curious about price a decent Prosecco begins around $10. The more recognized names of Prosecco, such as those in the DOCG, will top out around $18. It is really an affordable bubbly! Though, if I can give a word of advice, save the ones that go for $9 and under for your Bellini. If you want a delicious Bellini, choose what you want.
Prosecco is a good bubbly from a top-notch wine region of the world and is affordable for everyone. It makes a great aperitif, can be paired with light fish dishes, summer snacks and it makes for a great mixer to punch up most simple cocktails. There’s always an excuse to pop a Prosecco.
International Sommelier and Chef Christie Kiley has over a decade of combined experience in both restaurants and wineries. While working in kitchens under talented chefs, she spent nights off serving guests in the dining room.
Her passion for food began overflowing into the wine industry and while laboring during wine harvests in Napa, she learned the nature of the product from soil to bottling. Experience working the back- and front-of-the-house in restaurants, wineries in sales, and as a food and wine educator, Christie has vast knowledge of the two industries.
Christie is currently living in Buenos Aires, where she received her Fourth level International Sommelier Certificate from the Escuela de Argentina Sommeliers (EAS) after two years of study. She is now travelling to fine-tune her knowledge and delve into the gastronomy and cultures around the globe. She works as a freelance writer to share her cultural experiences. Find Christie on Facebook
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*DEAR KARIE ENGEL* * THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR EMAIL’S YOU HAVE MADE BE A BETTER CHEF WITH YOUR IDEAS* CHEF ARIE DUBOV
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