Try these proseccos this summer 

by MARCIA J. HAMM

Everyone loves bubbles right? From champagne all the way down to a simple, fruity sparkler, bubbles make us happy.

Prosecco is often chosen above a champagne or cava, not only because of its price, but also because it has bigger, sharper bubbles than that of its champagne counterpart. Champagne’s sparkling wine is made via the traditional method— a second-fermentation in the bottle giving it a creamy mousse with fine bubbles — while prosecco is made via the tank or Martinotti-Charmat method.

The bubbles are created during the second fermentation in large stainless steel tanks or autoclaves, and then bottled under pressure. That being said, there are many producers embracing the traditional method and will have offerings in that style.

Before 2009, the grape used in making prosecco was actually called prosecco. With the complications of the area(s) the grape was grown (which also bore the name prosecco), the name change also became necessary to reduce any possibility of sparkling wines outside of Italy to bear the name prosecco on the label.

Although most prosecco is 100% glera (the prosecco grape’s new name), there can be additions of chardonnay and pinot bianco, along with lesser known Italian native grapes verdiso and bianchetta trevigiana, which help to supply extra acidity and structure respectively. You’ll see varying degrees of sweetness too, with labels on the bottle stating brut, extra brut, extra dry and dry, with the latter being the sweetest.

Prosecco is a happy trend that just keeps growing and getting better. Usually having strong aromas of peach, apricot and varying floral notes, one glass will rarely suffice. In terms of quality, one might think prosecco is prosecco and what might be the difference from one bottle to the next? That’s where you couldn’t be more wrong!

Bring on the bottles  

The prosecco pyramid is made up of four zones, representing various levels of quality. The bottom level is represented by Prosecco DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), comprising 556 communes (villages). An area this large in size would most assuredly have varying levels of soil types, microclimates and exposures. There are many Prosecco DOC to be had and some can be very lovely, however, there are also many that might be a cheap, industrial style available in copious quantities everywhere.

For more quality Prosecco DOC wine, try Tenuta Santa Anna (CSPC +779291) about $22 or Emotivo (CSPC +745154) about $19. Next up on the pyramid is the Treviso Prosecco DOC that can be made in 95 townships. Like the basic Prosecco DOC, these wines can range from insipid to solid, and even outstanding. They will almost always have more texture and complexity of flavours than the entry level Prosecco DOC, but the price point doesn’t always show that. There are many Treviso Prosecco out there for $20 and even less!

Try Le Contesse (CSPC +782505) about $21, or Bellenda (CSPC +762563), around $26. Valdobbiadene-Conegliano is the DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) for a reason: in a band of both flatland and hillside vineyards that extend from the towns of Conegliano to Valdobbiadene, it’s here that some of the best prosecco is made. Located approximately 50 km north of Venice, the region boasts a unique microclimate with the Dolomite mountains to the north keeping the cold breezes at bay, yet bringing in warm wind from the southern Venice lagoon. The soils of Conegliano are rich in clay, providing firm, structured wines, whilst the higher hillsides of Valdobbiadene translate to highly aromatic and fresh wine.

Producers will often blend grapes from these two areas to create the perfect wine. In the Valdobbiadene zone, 43 single vineyard sites have been identified, being noted with the word rive on any label of the DOCG wine. In other words, grapes grown on steep hillsides — like Mosel in Germany — must be harvested by hand. There are a lot of hours involved to make not just Valdobbiadene wines, but Valdobbiadene rive wines also.

For DOCG Valdobbiadene, try Ruggeri Giall’Oro Extra Dry (CSPC +377457), about $30, or Nino Franco Rive di San Floriano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG (CSPC + 712223), about $33.

While rive prosecco certainly have a caché of their own, the top of the prosecco food chain undoubtedly belongs to Cartizze. With only 106 hectares of land making up this Grand Cru, it’s here that you will find some of the most varietally correct, intensely perfumed, elegant (and expensive) prosecco. If you happen to have a spare $1.2 million lying around, you too can have a piece of Cartizze!

For Cartizze, look for Bisol (CSPC +771232), around $50 or Adami Rive Colbertaldo (CSPC +756137) for about $41.

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