Just like Champagne, Prosecco has a prestigious history and heavy cultural ties. Overseen by the Italian government, this bubbly Italian wine acquires two haughty labels, DOC or DOCG, which stand for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita. These letters indicate true authenticity and a guarantee of the wine’s origin. And while many of us in America turn to Prosecco as a more affordable alternative to pricy Champagne, there’s a lot more to this bubbly beverage, and a lot to learn if you want to pick out the best bottle.
What is Prosecco?
Truly “authentic” Prosecco will come from Veneto, Italy, the wine’s birthplace and region known for its optimal climate. Surrounding Veneto, you will find the Alps to the north and the Adriatic Sea to the south, the combination of which provide mild temperatures and rich clay soil. It’s the perfect environment for the Glera grape, the primary fruit used in the making of Prosecco. In fact, Italian law dictates that Prosecco must contain at least 85% Glera grapes. Common native grapes you will find blended with Glera are Verdiso, Bianchetta Trevigiana, Perera, Glera Lunga, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. Most of these are specific to the surrounding regions of Veneto and give Prosecco its distinct taste.
In addition, the production of Prosecco must follow strict standards in line with the Charmat Sparkling Method, also known as the Tank Method. The wine mixed in a large tank where yeast and sugar are added along with high pressure. Prosecco is given around three atmospheres of pressure, which creates fine bubbles longer-lasting than beer, but not quite as long as Champagne. This method of production also requires two fermentation periods, the second of which involves letting the yeast and sugar interact to create bubbly carbonation and a bright flavor.
Different Types of Prosecco
During all wine-making processes, the levels of residual sugar left in the finished product will determine the sweetness of the wine. Traditionally, you will find most Proseccos labeled as Brut, or dry. Brut Prosecco can contain up to 12 grams per liter of residual sugar, an ideal balance for leveling out the sweet honeydew and green apple notes of the grapes, but maintaining a sharp bite. Sweeter styles of Prosecco are quite popular though and make excellent aperitifs or compliments to desserts. Extra Dry Prosecco contains 12-17 grams of residual sugar, and Dry Prosecco contains 17-32 grams of sugar. Those who tend to prefer more fruit-forward whites will likely enjoy the Extra Dry’s balance of sweetness and acidity.
How Prosecco is Ranked
Prosecco production is carefully monitored and awarded certain grades according to its quality and area of origin. Prosecco DOC is the most common Prosecco you will find and indicates that the bottle’s grapes originated from anywhere in the Veneto and Fruili-Venezia Giuiflia regions.
The next level is Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG, a label given to those wines that are blended with grapes from the areas between Valdobbiadene and Conegliano, where some of the most flavorful grapes are grown. The DOCG recognition marks that these wines are of the highest quality level.
Next, you will find Asolo Prosecco DOCG, again given ranking as one of the highest quality Proseccos, and known for its origins in the hillside region of northern-central Veneto. The sun-facing hills provide rich, flavorful grapes and the loose soil is optimal for drainage.
One of the most superior types of Prosecco you can buy is Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore Rive DOCG, a label granted to wine coming from any one of only 43 communes around Conegliano-Valdobbiadene. Similar to the prestigious Champagne houses of France, these communes represent the history of Prosecco and the classic styles of production. Any bottle marked with the word “Rive” alludes to the vineyard’s optimal position on Italy’s classic sloping hills. The bottles that get this stamp of excellence have come from the best locations in all of Italy.
And finally, the best of the best is Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG, a type of wine produced in a small area spanning just 265 acres in the west. Here you will find the best terrior for Prosecco and a perfect sunny climate. Only a limited amount of wine comes from this region, but what results is an incredibly flavorful, yet delicate sparkling wine.
Champagne vs. Prosecco
Many consumers regard Prosecco and Champagne as interchangeable, and while you can enjoy similar qualities in each, they are quite distinct from one another. The first difference you will notice is the price. Champagne undergoes a much more complicated process, including three additional steps such as tedious riddling, or rotating of the bottles, and disgorgement. Champagne also receives a higher dose of atmospheric pressure, and unlike Prosecco, does not receive its bubbly carbonation until the second fermentation. This method takes time, precision and a fine eye for the art of Champagne making, and as such Champagne is a luxury product priced two, three, four or more times the cost of Prosecco.
Like Prosecco, Champagne consists of grapes from a particular region in France, though Champagne consists of three varieties, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. These grapes are used in varying quantities and combinations, though they must all come from the 80-mile area around the city of Reims to be called a true Champagne.
But is the taste really so different? In some ways no, but Champagne undergoes a longer aging process, and is exposed to the yeast particles longer, giving it a toasty flavor distinct to Champagne. The long aging process also creates fine bubbles with a sharp finish, which will feel uniquely crisp on the tongue. On the other hand, Prosecco’s shorter production period results in frothy bubbles, and more citrus and floral notes. Prosecco will also usually appear sweeter when compared to Champagne because the fruitiness is not off-set by the warmer flavors in the yeasty characteristics of Champagne.
Both these bubbly drinks are festive and reminiscent of celebrations, and really either one makes a perfect party drink. However, Champagne’s richness makes for an optimal starter, paired with a seafood appetizer, pickled vegetables, and even salty, crisp potato chips. Move onto the Prosecco when the meal is served, it will complement cured meats, spicy Thai dishes, and sushi.
See some Prosecco comparisons here:
Your Best Bets
If sparkling wine is your thing, it’s time to move to the next level with some authentic Prosecco. While you can find inexpensive bottles in any wine and spirits store, it’s important to avoid mass-produced bottles, which are filled with sugar and soda-like carbonation to cut down on production time. Luckily, great Prosecco is available in a range of prices, so try any of these options for a true taste of Italy and a bubbly experience unlike any other.
|Wine & Price||Grade||Description|
|Luna D’or Prosecco Extra Dry, $14||DOC||This is an excellent choice for those looking for a slightly sweeter Prosecco. From Conegliano, this bottle is delicate and fruit-forward with a tart citrus finish.|
|Asolo Prosecco Superiore NV, $16||DOCG||This Prosecco is quite unique in that it’s entirely organic. You will get a burst of citrus followed by a sweet candied peach and fresh pear flavor. It’s a wonderful value.|
|Armani Prosecco, $17||DOC||This bottle from Armani in Valdadige is soft and round, with great acidity to balance it out. You will notice apple blossom and lemon peel on the palette.|
|Santa Margherita Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, $25||DOCG||This is a classic Veneto Prosecco with a bit of warmth on the finish. Ripe stone fruit is front and center with notes of toasted almond at the end. It’s a great choice for Champagne lovers looking to expand their knowledge of sparkling wines.|
|Nino Franco Vigneto della Riva di San Floriano, $29||DOCG||A Valdobbiadene classic, this bottle earns its “Riva” title because of the vineyard’s perfect position on Italy’s sloping hills, the optimal place to grow Glera grapes. This Prosecco is delightfully creamy with notes of crushed herbs on the nose.|
|Rebuli Prosecco, $30||DOC||Once again from Valdobbiadene, comes to this delightfully crisp and dry Prosecco. Orange and peach flavors burst through the bubbles and the minerality creates a long finish.|
|Tesoro Della Regina Prosecco, $40||DOC||A classic Veneto Prosecco, this bottle is particularly clean and crisp, with a green finish that compliments any appetizer you serve alongside it.|