One year we spent New Year’s Eve in Venice. We went to a restaurant and had a wonderful seafood dinner and drank sparkling wine. We began with Prosecco and then had a Franciacorta Brut. With our dessert we drank an Asti Spumante. Walking back to our hotel through Saint Mark’s Square just after midnight was quite an experience. The whole square was filled with people popping sparkling wine corks, drinking the wine from the bottle, laughing and carrying on, and then smashing the bottles on the ground. To get back to our hotel, we walked through the square as quickly as possible!
Since then we often serve Italian sparkling wine with a seafood dinner for New Years Eve and remember that night in Venice.
Italy produces a vast array of sparkling wines referred to as spumante. They make it in every form from dosage zero (driest) to demi sec (off dry) and everything in between. Many different grape varieties are used and the wine is made by either the Charmat method wherein the second fermentation takes place in a temperature controlled stainless steel tank, or Metodo Classico where the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle. They also produce wines, which are slightly sparkling, and these they refer to as frizzante.
Prosecco from the Veneto is the number one selling sparkling wine in Italy. Almost all Prosecco is made by the Charmat method. I like Prosecco as an aperitif, with appetizers, seafood risotto and with fried foods. In Rome I always enjoy Prosecco with fried zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies. There are many good Proseccos on the market at very reasonable prices.
Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG “Rustico” Brut Nino Franco 100 % Glera grape. Traditionally the grape was called Prosecco. This is the least expensive of their wines. $16
Prosecco “Organic” Treviso DOC Mionetto Made from certified organically grown grapes without the use of synthetic chemicals and fertilizers. $15
Bisol, Valdo, Aneri are other producers that I lik
There are individual producers that make good Spumante in the Metodo Classical style in Italy but in general I believe that the best come from the regions of Lombardy (Franciacorta) and Trentino.
The label on a bottle of Franciacorta only bears the designation “Franciacorta”, this single term defines the territory, the method of production and the wine. All Franciacorta is Metodo Classico and DOCG.
Franciacorta is made from Chardonnay and/or Pinot Noir; Pinot Bianco can be used as well, up to 50% of the blend
Franciacorta Gran Cuveé Saten Brut Bellavista A special cuvee made from 100%Chardonnay selected from the best vineyard. It is made in the cremant style resulting in lower CO2 pressure, the defining feature of all Saten wines. It is produced in limited quintiles using old small barrels as was once practiced in the past. Saten is a blanc de blancs and can be made from Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco up to 50% $50
Franciacorta Brut this non- vintage wine is made from 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir Berlucchi The wine is fermented for six months in stainless steel and aged for 12 months before disgorging. After disgorging the bottle is aged for 2 more months in the cellar before release. $30
Dosage Zero Millesimato Franciacorta This vintage wine is made from 60% Chardonnay, 23% Pinot Bianco and 17% Pinot Noir. Ca’ del Bosco The average age of the vines is 31 years and the harvest takes place the first week of September. $50
Other producers Contadi Castaldi and Monte Rose-look for their Rose Brut
Ferrari Brut NV Trento DOC Metodo Classico 100% Chardonnay. The grapes are picked by hand at the beginning of September. They come from various communes in the Val d’Adige, Val di Cembra and Valle dei Laghi. The vineyards are between 300 and 700 meters above sea level, with southeast or southwest exposure. The wine is aged for at least 24 months on the lees. The yeast is selected from Ferrari’s own cultures $25
Ferrari Rosé NV Trento DOC Metodo Classico 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. The grapes come from hillside vineyards around the town of Trento at 300 to 600 meters above sea level. The wine is aged for 25-30 months on the lees $37.
If you want something special to celebrate the New Year Italian style then I recommend what I believe may be the finest Metodo Classico wine made in Italy. It is about $100 a bottle and worth it.
Giulio Ferrari Riserva Del Fondatore This is a single vineyard reserve aged vintage wine. The grapes are picked at the end of September in the Maso Pianizza a vineyard owned by the Lunelli family that owns Ferrari. The vineyard is in the commune of Trento and is between 500 and 600 meters above sea level with a southwesterly exposure. The wine spends at least 10 years on the lees. They do not make this wine in every vintage. The first vintage was 1972
For many years the “industrial” sweet Lambrusco wine that was imported into this country was not very good. It had a screw cap, was very inexpensive, very sweet and for some reason was very popular during the 1980’s. This sent the wrong message to serious wine drinkers. I often heard it said that no one could make a good Lambrusco!
This has changed and there are some excellent Lambruscos now available here. They were always available in Emilia.
In Italy on New Years Day it is traditional and good luck for the coming year to eat lentils. In Emilia the lentils would be served with cotechino, a large spiced pork sausage. The wine they would drink with this meal would be a dry, low alcohol (11.5%), high acid Lambrusco with a strawberry accent that is a perfect combination with this dish.
Lini and Ca de’ Medici are other good producers. Most Lambrusco is made by the Charmat Method but some producers also make a Metodo Classico.
Sparkling Dessert Wines- Piedmont
Asti DOCG (formally know as Asti Spumante) is made from the Moscato Bianco grape, also known as Moscato Canelli. It is a sparkling wine produced by using the Charmat method. It is low in alcohol, about 7%, and has aromas and flavors of peach, honey and tropical fruits. It should be drunk young because the wine is at its best when it is fresh.
Often in the past I would see Italian/Americans putting a cube of sugar in their Asti. I was told it helped the bubbles and made the wine sweeter. Serve it with cookies, plain cakes and panettone. From $14 to $20
Producers include Bera, Gancia, Cinzano, and Martini and Rossi.
Some producers also make a Metodo Classico
Moscato D’Asti DOCG is made from the same grape as Asti and has many of the same flavors and aromas. It is also low in alcohol around 6%. The difference is that this wine is slightly sparkling (frizzante) and it is vintage dated while Asti is not. It should be drunk as close to the vintage date as possible. The two wines share the same DOCG. From $15 t0 $20
Producers Michele Chiarlo, Fontanafredda, Elio Perrone, La Spinetta and Vietti
Asti and Moscato D’Asti can be found for around $20 a bottle
Brachetto D’Acqui DOCG is a sweet wine and it is most famous as a red sparkling wine. Made by the Charmat method. It is made from the Brachetto grape. It has intense berry flavors and aromas, especially strawberry, and goes very well with chocolate and all kinds of chocolate desserts.
Producers include Braida $30 and Banfi-Rosa Regale $20
HAPPY NEW YEAR