What Is Prosecco?

Date October 27, 2010

prosecco cocktails
photo credit:unknown

Ah, Prosecco. There is nothing more refreshing than a glass of this semi-fruity nectar on a balmy afternoon. Not sure what Prosecco wine is? How about a Bellini? Don’t feel bad if you aren’t familiar with either. It wasn’t long ago that Prosecco wasn’t much to speak of outside of Italy, its native land. It’s a light sparkling wine, the main ingredient in the Bellini (a sparkling peach cocktail originating in Venice). Now, however, in Italy the wine is second in preference only to spumante and has gained momentum in the US and other areas outside of Italy.

Although it is a sparkling wine, it is not Champagne. In name or in price. And it’s best not to get those confused. Regulations in France stipulate that only sparkling wine made in the wine region of Champagne can bear the name. Otherwise, it is merely a sparkling wine. That’s not to degrade this sparkling white wine in the least as Prosecco is a very refreshing albeit light sparkling wine. If you were to taste both, you would get a subtle hint of fruit with light acidity in the Prosecco; Champagne, on the other hand, tends to be much dryer and more acidic.

Because it’s such a mild sparkling, Italian Prosecco is a perfect aperitif for many foods. It’s a light bodied wine, has a low alcohol content although it is fermented dry and has little residual sugar in it. You can get an assortment of fruits on the pallet: peach, apples, pears, sometimes there’s a hint of almonds. Due to its easy quaffing, it can be drunk young and is preferred that way in Italy, at its freshest.

Aside from being the name of the sparkling wine, Prosecco is also the name of the grape from which the sparkling is made. For the geography majors, Prosecco sparkling is made primarily in the winemaking region of Veneto in the district of Valdobiadene. It is given the designation of DOC or DOCG Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene, recognized by the pink label that covers the top of the bottle.

Prosecco grapes are high yielding (the reason for its benign character), which for some reason do very well being processed through the Charmat method. This is the same process that mass sparklings like Korbel and Andre undergo. While those can be some really hard wines to put down, Prosecco seems to do very well this way. The Charmat method is when secondary fermentation and clarification is done in pressurized tanks. Typically, higher grade sparklings are pressurized in bottles. Being processed this way, it avoids sur lie aging, which gives Champagnes a nuttiness to the pallet.

As it is a sparkling wine, Prosecco gets its bubbles because of stuck fermentation. The grapes are late to ripen in the season and are thus harvested later. As the temperatures cool in the autumn season, the fermentation process slows and eventually stops, trapping carbon dioxide in the must.

There can be different levels of dryness in this wine, Prosecco brut (dry) and Prosecco extra dry (semi-sweet) being the usual suspects. It is typically enjoyed while it is fresh, in the same year of the vintage, but several of the best Prosecco wines can handle a few years of aging without degrading.

How To Serve Prosecco

Being a frizzante, so to speak, serving Prosecco requires certain temperatures to achieve maximum flavor and aroma profile. It should always be chilled, between 46 – 50° F. Serve it in Champagne flutes or white wine glasses, either is perfectly fine. You can get about 6 glasses per 750 ml bottle. Reseal if possible after pouring the initial round. This way it will last about four hours before going flat.

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