Let’s start with the one million dollar question: “Is Prosecco a great wine?”
Is it a great wine because it sells millions of bottles, so much that it has become a cultural phenomenon, rather than a simple wine?
Or is true the opposite, i.e. the contemptuous axiom that if a wine sells so much is a mass market wine and doesn’t deserve our chalice?
What are the characteristics of a great wine?
Structure, elegance, persistence, longevity.
But what if a wine is the quintessence of “drinkability”, is simple and immediate, yet irresistible and perfect for a multitude of food pairings and aperitifs?
For us the answer is yes! Maybe Prosecco doesn’t have the ethereal charm of Barolo, but has its own numbers, so let’s discover this great Italian wine.
Glera, who is this stranger?
The grape used to produce Prosecco is Glera, an ancient vine of obscure origins, but known since 1500. It’s a semi-aromatic grape variety: it means that is fragrant and very recognizable, especially for its floral notes, but not as strongly as Gewurztraminer, just to name the King of aromatic wines.
By rules it must be made with at least 85% of Glera and the rest could be other white grape varieties as Verdisio, Bianchetta Treviso, Perera, Glera lunga, more rarely Chardonnay or Pinot grigio/bianco. The known biotypes are: Prosecco Balbi, Prosecco dal peccol rosso, Prosecco lungo, Prosecco tondo.
How is Prosecco made?
Before the industrialization of Prosecco, once existed, and exists right now for Prosecco colfòndo, a second fermentation in the bottle.
The so-called ancestral method, the French pétillant naturel, also used to make artisanal Lambrusco, the real one.
In practice you harvest the grapes when they are not too mature to preserve their freshness, then crash and let it ferment, but not completely, because with the arrival of winter yeasts go in “hibernate” mode, so you can bottle the wine.
The sugars that have not yet been transformed into alcohol by the yeast, wake up as Spring come back and begin to work again, eating the sugars and creating carbon dioxide as a result of the transformation.
If all goes well, and the bottles remain in a dark and cool cellar, yeasts can complete their mission successfully giving us great wines, otherwise the bottles could explode.
And this is the old fashioned way, a more natural way of making wine, because you can’t control the wine or make any changes.
Otherwise you could use the classical Martinotti method. It’s a fascinating process, but totally different, in a nutshell: you put the wine in a large autoclave, add selected yeasts and leave the wine to ferment for 20 days.
The wines are cleaner, crystalline, but with more standard features, ensuring always the same product without the unpredictability of the second fermentation.
Prosecco’s production areas
Prosecco DOC is at home in all Veneto region, except the provinces of Rovigo and Verona, and all over Friuli Venezia Giulia.
Prosecco DOCG is restricted only to wines made in Conegliano, Valdobbiadene and Colli Asolani, a lovely area punctuated by hills in which you can find the best cru.
As a small historical note, it seems that Prosecco’s name derives from the homonymous town in the province of Trieste.
To not miss: Cartizze, an enclave of just over 100 hectares (107), in San Pietro di Barbozza, always in the municipality of Valdobbiadene, softened by a slight residual sugar that makes this sparkling wine a little gem, also suitable for matching with cakes, tarts and tiramisu.
What does prosecco taste like?
Prosecco offers a mild and gentle bouquet, with pear, peach, apple, white flowers and the classic baked scents. The palate is fruity, fresh, with a measured and savory rhythm, full of mineral returns and a tantalizing perlage.
The Colfondo Prosecco is whole different story, yeasts are more pounding and make the wine more expressive, full, vibrant. Often turbid and with more pronounced and mature aromas, often intertwined with rocky notes, ginger and pastry reminiscences. If the palate a Martinotti method Prosecco has a precise and sharp vertical evolution that ends in an almond finish, Colfondo Prosecco expands itself in all directions, like a slow tide.
Serving temperature of Prosecco
Like any self-respecting sparkling wine, Prosecco should be served at a temperature of 8 degrees to enhance its freshness. Remember that lower temperatures enhance the harsh notes, (freshness and saltiness) to the detriment of the aromas.