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Prosecco – Italian Champagne?

By Dr Michael Ryan

Italy has always been a wine producing monster. The French lay claim to the most prestigious wines and senses of tradition but Italy makes more wine, has been doing it longer and can make great peasant wine to stellar wines that make you weep.

Whilst Dom Perignon lays claim to inventing Champagne in 1693, Prosecco was made in 1893 by Carpene Malvoti and now outsells Champagne on a worldwide market. Prosecco is a sparkling wine that can vary in style from spumante (sparkling), Frizzante (semi sparkling) and tranquillo (still).

The grape variety is now formally known as Glera. Other white grapes used may include Verdiso, Bianchetta Trevigianna, Perera, Glera Lunga, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanco , Pinot Grigio and Pinot Nero.

Prosecco is now descriptive of the region where this wine is made. It has been promoted from a DOC area with DOCG status, implying more prestige. Prosecco is located in Trieste in Northern Italy, north of Venice.

The term Prosecco is protected under European law and is not supposed to be used elsewhere. In Australia we still use the term Prosecco. It seems the law is on our side. The name has been in commercial use so has prior recognition as it refers to the grape variety, not a region. Otto Del Zotto from the King Valley in Victoria pioneered this wine.

So prosecco is much cheaper than Champagne. Generally stainless steel fermentation, with tank secondary fermentation to make the bubbles keeps the price down. Some producers are experimenting with the” metodo classic” akin to  traditional methode as in Champagne.

The wine is served at 4-8 degrees. The usual aromas often include green apple, pear, honey dew, honeysuckle. Some more complex nutty creamy aromas develop with age. The bubbles are often softer as the pressure in the bottle is often only 2-4 atmospheres compared to 6-7 of Champagne. It is not known for its cellaring potential and usually drunk within 2-4 years of vintage.

It is mostly served as an aperitif. The Bellini cocktail is Prosecco and peach nectar mix. The most desirable cocktail that immediately transports you back to that Venetian bar is the Aperol Spritz. This is a mixture of Aperol, a light bitter liqueur from Campari, Soda water and Prosecco.

Wines tasted

Carpene Malvoti Superior Prosecco DOCG – $25 bargain – light yellow with delicate bubbles. The nose is classic green apples and tropical fruits. The mouth feel is smooth with balanced fruit and acidity. It sits well on the fore palate and I enjoyed with sashimi king fish with a dash of mirin and orange rind.

Mianetto Cartzzi DOCG Dry Prosecco- Not cheap at $50. Golden hues on the eye. The bouquet is an alluring cornucopia of green apples, citrus notes, pears and almonds. The bead is fine and combined with a restrained delicate palate, makes this a sultry moreish wine. Beautiful with poached quenelles of chicken mousse.

Dal Zotto  Pucino Prosecco 2016 – light yellow with nice bead. Aromas of citrus, lemons, apples. Nice dry style with good fruit and zingy acidity. The balance overall is of a nice soft wine equally good as an aperitif or poached scallops.

Santa & D’Sas King Valley Prosecco – Light green to yellow, good bead. Distinctive and fascinating aromas that show melon lemon notes.  The mouth feel is subtle, effective with the apple and nutty tones in the palate.