the many virtues of prosecco

Monday, September 19, 2011

This is the time of year that wine writers begin to craft their annual barrage of sparkling wine columns. Though I have written about bubbly – notably Champage – at all times of the year, there is irrefutable evidence that the last quarter, which includes the Halloween to New Years holiday season – is when most folks buy and drink sparkling wines.

I confess I love these wines, and look forward to tasting as many as possible during the prelude to the season. This year I am working on several different columns at once, and will post updates here on the blog as well.

Over the past few days I’ve done some lovely tastings of cavas, Proseccos, and a few oddballs (sparkling gruner veltliner anyone?). Some real gems showed up, but the Proseccos were so good as a group that they warrant a post all to themselves.

According to Wikipedia:

“Prosecco is mainly produced as a sparkling wine in either the fully sparkling (spumante) or lightly sparkling (frizzante, gentile) varieties. Prosecco spumante, which has undergone a full secondary fermentation, is the more expensive variant. The sparkling variants may contain some Pinot bianco or Pinot grigio wine. Depending on their sweetness, in accordance with the EU Sweetness of wine Regulations for Terms used to indicate sweetness of sparkling wine, Proseccos are labeled "Brut" (up to 12 grams per liter of residual sugar), "Extra Dry" (12–17 g/l) or "Dry" (17–32 g/l).”

What I personally love about Prosecco is easily summed up. It’s light, it’s bubbly, it’s unpretentious, it’s inexpensive, it’s delicious on its own and it’s ultimately blendable (Belinis are just the beginning.) But there are some hurdles along the way.

Packaging is all over the map. Yesterday I opened close to a dozen bottles; among them was one finished with screwcap, one with a champagne cork seal but no wire cage or protruding top (that was a bitch to open). Most were done in the usual sparkling wine style, but the corks as a group were unusually tight and difficult to remove. My friends Jim German and Larry Davidson, who were tasting with me, confirmed that in their extensive experience (as mixologist and sommelier respectively) these are among the most difficult wines to open.

Once you get the bottle open, there are still some surprises in store. Though most are labeled brut, some are extra dry, which as few consumers know, means they are extra sweet. But not always – at least one extra dry was more of a brut, and at least one brut had recognizable sweetness, EU regulations notwithstanding.

The amount of fizz varies also, as does the finished alcohol. But despite the variations, it’s difficult to find a bad or even a dull Prosecco. And quality does tend to follow price. If you find the label reads Prosecco di Valdobbiadene you are standing at home plate and ready to swing for the fences from a quality standpoint.

Among the wines tasted over the weekend, the favorites (with suggested retail pricing for Washington) were:

Bisol 2009 Crede Prosecco Superiore Brut ($20) – the depth and detail that only the finest convey.

Rive della Chiesa Brut Prosecco ($14) – grapefruit and citrus, a hint of bitterness.

Desiderio Jeio Prosecco (a Vias import; $13) – a mouthful of grapefruit!

Valdo Prosecco ($11) – nutty, with a distinctive flavor of truffle and vanilla.

Riondo Spago Nero Prosecco ($13) – some sweetness here, with a lovely lemon drop character.

2 comments:

Bryan Maletis - Fat Cork said...

Hi Paul,

Great post. We love to drink all types of sparkling wine too!

If and when you are ever in Seattle, we would love to show you our warehouse/tasting room/importer/retail space and pour you a few of our bubbles!

Grower Champagne would be a great next article, at least in our minds : )

PaulG said...

Bryan - happy to set up a visit. Please email me at paulgwine@me.com and we'll rub calendars.

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