Prosecco: Great Year-Round

This post has been adapted from an article I wrote for the Italian/American Project. The full article entitled “Prosecco and Panetone: A Perfect Combination” can be found here.

When I visit Rome, the first restaurant I go to is either Da Giggetto in the Jewish Quarter or Il Matriciano on the via Gracchi near he Vatican. I do not need a menu and always order the same appetizer, Fiori di zucchine ripiene con mozzarella e acciughe (fried zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies). This goes perfectly with a bottle of sparkling Prosecco, a wine I enjoy with fried foods and with a variety of snacks.

Prosecco is the largest selling sparkling wine in Italy and Italians drink it all the time. They have it in the afternoon at the cafes, before dinner, and at celebrations such as weddings and birthdays. In fact, no self-respecting Roman or Venetian would go out to dinner without first having a glass of Prosecco.

Prosecco is made in the Veneto about an hour by car from Venice to the south of Cortina D’Ampezzo (the famous ski resort) in the Dolomites, to the north in the province of Treviso. The two towns that form the DOC limits for Prosecco production are Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. Prosecco can be made in others areas, but the best come from here.

In addition to the sparkling variety, it can also be made secco, as a dry, still wine. It is difficult to find still Prosecco because there is such a large demand for the sparkling that there are not enough grapes for the still variety. The first time I was in Valdobbiadene, the producers called still Prosecco tranquillo (tranquil) to distinguish it from the sparkling. There is amabile (sweetish) Prosecco and dolce (sweet). The sparking can be produced in two types: frizzante (slightly sparkling) or spumante (sparkling). It can be Brut or Extra Dry. Brut is dryer than Extra Dry. It is made from the Prosecco grapes (85- 100%) with the addition of Verdiso, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio,and Chardonnay up to 15%. Most Prosecco is non-vintage.

Sparkling Prosecco is made by the Charmat method, meaning that they are given their second fermentation in a temperature controlled stainless steel tank rather than in the bottle.

The average vineyard holdings in the DOC area are very small and most large producers have to buy their grapes from many different vineyard owners. The Cartizze is a sub-zone in the heart the DOC area: 106 hectares of vineyards in the municipality of Valdobbiadene among the steepest slopes of San Pietro di Barbozzo, Santa Stefano and Saccol. This is a Super Cru and it is divided into very small plots with many different owners. Prosecco Superiore di Cartizze will cost two to three times as much as regular Prosecco.

Recently I went to a Prosecco tasting in the Time Warner Center in Manhattan and was able to taste a number sparkling Prosecco’s. Here are a couple of the producers whose wines I enjoyed:

Bisol has over 50 hectares of vineyards, including 3 in the prize Cartizze zone. Their Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Spumante Brute “Crede” ($24) is a special Cru which gets its name from the clayey soils and subsoils known as crede. It is made from Prosecco, Verdiso and Pinot Bianco grapes. Their Prosecco di Cartizze is also good ($48).

Mionetto‘s Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Spumente Extra Dry ($20) and their Vadobbiadene Spumante Superiore di Cartizze Dry ($40).

I was invited a few days later to a seminar: Sergio Component Tasting and Luncheon (at Remi Restaurant). The speaker was Sergio Mionetto, one of the owners of this family-operated winery. We tasted Mionetto Sergio, a sparkling wine that can not be called Prosecco because it only has 70% Prosecco di Valdobbiadene and such grapes as Verdiso, Bianchetta, Perera and Chardonnay. All of these grapes come from the Veneto.

Signor Mionetto is a knowledgable and entertaining speaker. He spoke about both Prosecco in general and his own wines. One of the most interesting parts for me was the component tasting. Each one of the grapes that go into Mionetto Sergio ($24) was tasted as a still wine. Then we tasted them all combined: the Sergio base wine in its tranquil state and finally, the Sparkling Sergio Cuvee. It was very informed to see how each grape is necessary to make the final blend. We were also served a Mionetto Sergio Rose’ ($27)

Mionetto’s production is more than 1,000,000 bottles.

Mionetto also uses a crown cap closure (like the ones on beer bottles) on its Prosecco. We were informed that this was the closure used in the Italian market for Prosecco. It also is used in Champagne before disgorging. It keeps the wine fresher and prevents it from becoming corked. I do not see anything wrong with the crown cap for this type of wine.

Here are some more Prosecco producers and wines I enjoy drinking:

Adami – Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Spumante Dry “Vigneto Giardino” 2007 ($21)

Cantine Maschio – Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Brut “Maschio del Cavalieri”($18)

Zardetto – Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Spumante Dry “Zeta” 2007 ($22).

Cantina Colli Del Soligo – Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbianene Spumante Brut ($18 ).

TIP: For a perfect summer drink, blend white peach juice with Prosecco for that famous drink invented at Harry’s Bar in Venice: The Bellini.

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