Earlier this month the annual Italian wine tasting was held at Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto. Prior to the walk-around tasting, I attended a seminar showcasing Prosecco, a fun sparkling wine from Italy. The seminar was hosted by Italian wine expert Giuseppe Martelli and Canadian wine writer David Lawrason.
In 2009, Prosecco enjoyed a promotion from DOC status to DOCG, the highest quality category in Italy, creating Prosecco Conegliano Valdobiadene DOCG, and the much more obscure Prosecco Montello e Colli Asolani DOCG. Prosecco DOCG wines are made in the Treviso province of the region of Veneto. Grapes for Prosecco Conegliano Valdobiane DOCG are grown in the hills around the towns of the same name. These vineyards are planted on slopes or even terraces between 50 to 500 m above sea level. The slopes allow for maximum sun exposure and yields are naturally much lower than in vineyards on the miles and miles of plains in Veneto, which are not eligible for DOCG status.
Prosecco is not just the name of the wine but also the grape that makes this sparkling wine. Prosecco, also called Glera, has very large, pyramid-shaped clusters with medium-sized, spherical grapes with golden yellow, thin skins when fully ripe. It is a late-ripening grape. It is the lateness that probably gave rise to the wine being sparkling. Fermentation would likely not be complete by the time the very cold weather would put a stop to it, leaving carbon dioxide and some residual sugar in the wine. The warmth of spring would start fermentation again, creating more carbon dioxide. Today, most Prosecco is made using the Charmat (or tank) method where the second fermentation takes place in a sealed tank instead of the bottle as in the traditional method. Most Prosecco is spumante (fully sparkling), but it can also be frizzante (slightly sparkling) or even still.
Three categories of sweetness are made: Brut versions have up to 15 g/l of residual sugar; Extra Dry versions have between 12 and 20 g/l of residual sugar; and Dry versions (which are actually the sweetest of the bunch) have between 18 and 35 g/l of residual sugar.
Prosecco wines must be at least 85% Prosecco grapes. Up to 15% of other grapes may be used, such as Verdiso, Perera, Bianchetta, also Chardonnay, Pinot Nero (vinified as a white), and Pinot Bianco.
Approximately 53 million bottles of Prosecco are made every year and Canada is one of the top importers of it.
Prosecco is a young, fresh, fragrant, floral, fruity wine with a pale straw yellow colour and medium body. Typical aromas and flavours include citrus, apple, pear, bread crust, and a slightly herbaceous note. Most are either dry or off-dry with good acidity and a lightly creamy flavour. Prosecco is meant to be enjoyed young to capture the fresh fruit and floral fragrance.
David Lawrason called Prosecco a “relaxing wine”. It’s not expensive and it’s not demanding. It is a nice sparkling wine to serve at more casual events where money is, indeed, an issue. Most bottles of Prosecco can be found under $20. They are fun, tasty, crowd-pleasing wines. Sales of Prosecco in Canada have really exploded in the last 5 years or so as consumers are discovering this good value sparkler.
Prosecco even has what you might call a ‘grand cru’ vineyard. The subzone of Carizze produces wines that are thought to be superior than regular Prosecco DOCG wines. This area has 106 hectares of vineyards and produces about 1 million bottles of Prosecco.
My 2 Favourite Wines of the Seminar Were:
Valdobiadene DOCG Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry 2009: 17 g/l residual sugar. This wine was a brilliant straw yellow colour with a slight greenish hue. A delicate and elegant wine with aromas of baked pear, mineral, honey, white flowers and pastry. Soft and creamy on the palate with a bready character and baked yellow apple. Well-balanced with a good length.
Bisol Valdobiadene Superiore de Cartizze DOCG 2009: 25 g/l residual sugar. Pretty aromas of field flowers, mineral, peach, citrus, dried fruits, and a hint of nuttiness. Lots of finesse on the palate with the acidity balancing the relatively high sugar content. This wine is clean and refreshing with a long, pleasant finish.