One of the exciting things about the wine business has to be the continual effort to remake and refine products for prestige and commercial acceptance. Not all wine industries around the world participate in such efforts and for some, commerciality rules completely. In old europe proactive efforts of renewal particularly stand out in countries where it would seem to be easier to let everything stand as is. In the case of the Italian wine industry and Prosecco, seeing an opportunity and acting in a timely manner, has produced great commercial success while improving an ordinary product and elevating it to a status worthy of worldwide recognition.
So what is Prosecco? It is a charming crisp aromatic sparkling wine made from the Glera grape exhibiting yellow apple, pear, white peach, apricot, lemon, melon, honey and almonds in a light format with requisite small bubbles. Despite all of the flavors above, Prosecco is light and simple, unlike some Champagne styles.
So what was Prosecco? Before 1969 when it received its DOC, Prosecco was a pale imitator of Asti Spumonte and while made from Glera, or Prosecco, grapes primarily from around the town of Prosecco in Trieste; it could have just as easily incorporated grapes from Romania, Brazil, Argentina, and Australia and not just Glera grapes but also Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Verdiso, Bianchetta, Perera, Chardonnay, or Glera Lunga. Prosecco could also vary in its sweetness and sparkliness with about 5% of the production being still wine. In other words, Prosecco was wide open to interpretation. Rumors of rose Prosecco still circulate.
In 2009 Prosecco received its DOCG, guaranteeing Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Veneto in the areas near Conegliano and Valdobbiadene north of Treviso as the delimited region of production. Prosecco now is solely a place name and Glera is recognized as the name of the Prosecco grape. While Prosecco does not have to be 100% Glera, the best Proseccos are recogized as such. All Proseccos are sparkling now and a slightly off-dry style is recognized as the norm.
Prosecco is made using the inexpensive Charmat method or bulk processing in stainless steel tanks. Such wines do not improve with aging and should be drunk within three years of bottling. Italians drink Prosecco anytime but especially to accompany salmon, calamari, crabmeat, salads, light pasta, and summer! Prosecco is also the base beverage for Bellini cocktails (with peach puree) and may be used in Mimosas or other champagne cocktails as a substitute for real french Champagne.
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