In America, sparkling wine doesn’t get much respect. Pricey French Champagne is reserved for special occasions and high rollers. Beyond that, you don’t hear much about fizzy wine — until now.
Most wine-producing countries have their everyday bubbly wine — Cava in Spain and Sekt in Germany for example. Even the French have more accessible sparklers, notably from the Loire Valley. In Europe, when the waiter asks what wine you want by the glass, the question is always, “Red, white, or sparkling?”
Italian Prosecco is the one sparkling wine making a breakthrough. Most restaurants have it by the glass as a reasonably-priced option. In the last 10 years, Prosecco has become a standard restaurant offering. While it doesn’t threaten the dominance of a glass of chardonnay or sauvignon blanc, it is growing in popularity, especially in summer.
With fruity, slightly sweet flavors and a gentle effervescence, it’s a delightful sipper, perfect for brunch or before dinner. It’s particularly suited to warm weather. Prosecco is a principal ingredient in popular cocktails like the refreshing Aperol Spritz, colorful Kir Royal, and brunchy Mimosa.
In the stores, Prosecco can run from $10 to $25, but most retailers will tell you the action is under $15. Consumers don’t have a high expectation of the wine and are reluctant to pay a high price. None-the-less, there are excellent values as well as high quality wines at very reasonable prices.
JoAnn LoGiurato of Stew Leonard’s Wines in Norwalk told me, “Prosecco has become a huge category in the sparkling wine arena.” This is backed up by the extensive shelf space and substantial floor stack it occupies in the store.
“We like the Cielo Prosecco ($10),” She went on to say. “With its easy screw cap, it is the perfect Prosecco for making cocktails or taking to an outdoor venue.” Sacchetto Filli Prosecco ($15), with its beautiful bottle, is another delicious and popular option. “With a fresh, crisp taste, it’s perfect as a mixer or on its own,” Joanne went on to say.
Shapely bottles are part of the Prosecco image. The Italian design tradition of sleek race cars, high fashion, and stylish living extends to sexy Prosecco bottles. No stodgy Bordeaux or Burgundy styles here.
Codey Foster at Ancona’s Wines in Wilton suggests Zardetto Brut ($11) as an everyday pour and cocktail mixer. San Venanzio Treviso is his go-to ($16) for a step up. Bisol Crede Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore is not only a mouth full to say but a mouth full of flavor as well. At $25 it’s easily the equal of a Champagne costing twice as much.
This might be the time to delve a little deeper into how to read a Prosecco label.
Prosecco is made from the Glera grape (at least 85%) formerly called Prosecco, which was named after the village of Prosecco where the whole thing may have started. (Confused? Me too, but there’s more.) The wine is made in the region of Veneto (mostly) and Friuli (a little) in the rugged and beautiful hills of northeast Italy above Venice.
As with most European wines, the more information on the label, the better the wine should be. DOC on the label means the wine can come from any of nine provinces. More exclusive wines labeled DOCG only come from the towns of Conegliano Valdobbiadene. This area is so untouched and picturesque that it has just been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site as a cultural landscape. Bottles showing the word Treviso come from the province surrounding the DOCG villages.
I picked up a couple of the most popular brands for some tasting at home. Mionetto DOC Treviso ($14 Total Wine) is a leading brand easily recognized by its narrow yellow label spiraling around the bottle. The wine was lightly sparkling with fresh and dried fruit flavors and medium sweetness. Good to sip, it also paired well with a splash of Crème de Cassis for a Kir Royal.
LaMarca DOC ($15 Total Wine) with its distinctive blue label had more fizz and was a little sweeter with peachy flavors. It was a good foundation for a Mimosa with a few drops of Cointreau swirled in the glass and then mixed 50/50 with orange juice.
The Aperol Spritz is a Prosecco-based cocktail that’s having a moment right now. In a wine glass filled with ice, Prosecco is mixed 50/50 with Aperol, a mildly bitter, red-colored Italian aperitivo. Finished with a splash of club soda and a slice of orange this refreshing low-alcohol drink is perfect for a warm summer evening.
Prosecco is a wine to be enjoyed. Don’t get too bogged down in the details or overthink it. Find one (or more) you like, generously pour it into a tall tulip glass and watch the bubbles drift up. Take a sip, and chill!