10 Things Every Self-Respecting Wine Lover Should Know About Prosecco

Top-tier Prosecco "DOCG" is produced in the townships of Valdobbiadene, Conegliano, and Asolo (above).
Top-tier Prosecco "DOCG" is produced in the townships of Valdobbiadene, Conegliano, and Asolo (above).
Photo by Jeremy Parzen.

Can you imagine a wine world without Prosecco? Just a few decades ago, Prosecco was hardly known beyond the city of Venice where it is liberally consumed and the province of Treviso where it is produced. Today, exports of Prosecco rival those of Champagne, in both volume and sales numbers.

The Prosecco boom of the 1980s and 1990s is owed to a handful of forward-thinking négociant producers who envisioned its potential in English- and German-speaking markets.

But recent changes in appellation regulations and deceptive marketing practices have created growing confusion among consumers and tradespeople alike.

Here are 10 Things Every Self-Respecting Wine Lover Should Know About Prosecco.

10. In 2009, three townships were included in the newly created Prosecco DOCG, the highest designation in the Italian appellation system: Valdobbiadene, Conegliano, and Asolo, hilltop towns that abound with steep slopes ideal for growing Glera grapes for Prosecco.

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9. The DOCG was intended to distinguish hillside-grown Prosecco from Prosecco DOC produced from grapes grown on the valley floor in Treviso province. The modified 2009 DOC also incorporated the entire region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. In theory, Prosecco DOCG represents a higher quality product.

8. The new appellations require that the grape used to produce Prosecco (the wine) no longer be called Prosecco (the variety). Glera, an ancient name for the grape used to make Prosecco, is now the officially sanctioned ampelonym.

7. Prosecco from Valdobbiadene tends to be the more fruit-driven in terms of its flavor profile. Prosecco from Conegliano often has a more pronounced mineral note and some would say that Prosecco from Asolo is the most "salty" of the three categories.

6. The overwhelming majority of Prosecco is produced using the Charmat or Martinotti method, as it is known in Italy. After the base wine is made, it is fermented a second time in large pressurized vats known as autoclaves. The method was first introduced in the years that followed World War II and subsequently led to the Prosecco boom of the 1980s and 1990s (in part because the autoclaves allow winemakers to store the wine for longer periods before bottling).

5. In recent years, a growing number of wineries have begun to produce "Prosecco Col Fondo," literally, "Prosecco with its Sediment." The wines are double-fermented in bottle and are not disgorged before being released. This ancestral-method expression of Prosecco has become increasingly popular in Italy, in part because of its novelty, in part because of its nostalgic appeal as "the Prosecco of our grandparents."

4. While the popularity of Prosecco has never waned in Venice and the Veneto region, where it is poured generously as a hometown favorite, more Prosecco is sold and consumed in southern regions than in central or northern Italy. The warmer weather of the south and its beach culture make Prosecco a natural fit.

The traditional glass for Prosecco. Note the opaque character of the unfiltered old-school Prosecco Col Fondo.
The traditional glass for Prosecco. Note the opaque character of the unfiltered old-school Prosecco Col Fondo.
Photo by Jeremy Parzen.

3. Traditionally, Prosecco is never served in a flute. The classic glass for Prosecco is the gotto or goto (in local dialect), a vessel akin to the "bistro glass." Many tasters would argue that the narrow aperture of the flute hinders rather than concentrates Prosecco's fruit aromas.

2. When fermented with neutral yeast, Prosecco won't have an overly cloying aroma or flavor. Glera is known for its delicate bitter note, an element that balances its fruit character. "I don't like apples and bananas," joked legacy Prosecco producer Primo Franco at a recent gala where he was feted for his thirty years at the helm of one of the appellation's most recognizable brands.

1. The canonical pairing for traditional Prosecco is seafood and cicchetti, Venetian tapas. Although Prosecco Dry (the sweetest category with the highest amount of residual sugar) is often paired with pastry and other sweets, the Venetians and the Veneti prefer to serve classic Prosecco (Brut and Dry) with savory dishes.


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