Prosecco is from northeast Italy, more precisely from five Veneto provinces (Treviso, Venice, Vicenza, Padua, Belluno) and four provinces of Friuli Venezia Giulia (Gorizia, Pordenone, Trieste and Udine). The vineyards are well worth visiting for their stunning beauty as well as their wines.
Across the Venetian plains there’s been an explosion of new plantings of Glera, the Prosecco grape, over recent years. The explosion’s been so loud that between 2008 and 2011 Glera vines almost doubled to 21 000 hectares; that’s over a quarter of Veneto’s total vineyard area! To increase the noise, U.K. sales value was up a massive 70% last year whilst the U.K. and the U.S. each knocked back over 30 million bottles. You have to heap marketing praise on the region for within just a few years, Prosecco has become the default bubbly.
The better ‘cost a few quid more’ bottles are from vineyards located in the superior D.O.C.G. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata Garantita) vineyards in the nearly-unpronounceable Conegliano-Valdobbiadene hills of the Veneto about an hour’s drive north of Venice. A quick tip with these long words; do what the Italians do, ‘speak with your hands’, it really does help with the pronunciation!
The D.O.C.G. vineyards are on the superior limestone-rich hillside slopes as opposed to the heavier clay valley plain, the latter taking on the D.O.C. label. The moral of the story? Look out for the ‘G’ and PTEQ. For the statisticians, about 280 million bottles of D.O.C. are produced every year compared to just 80 million bottles of D.O.C.G., “we will produce 360 million bottles in 2015”, Stefano Zanette, President of the Prosecco DOC Consortium, predicted last year. To their credit, the Proscecco producers realise that these titles are confusing and to lead us towards better quality are helpfully labeling the superior D.O.C.G. wines “Superiore”. Bravo!
As well as holding better soils, the hillside slopes are key to producing higher quality grapes (and therefore higher quality wine) as they also command better exposure to the sun. The higher altitudes are also good news as they introduce cooler temperatures and wider day-night temperature differentials to bring crisper acidity into the quality equation.
Prosecco is made by the Charmat Method, (called Martinotti in Italy), where the second fermentation occurs within a temperature controlled closed tank (sealed to keep the bubbles in), as opposed to Champagne which undergoes its second fermentation in a sealed bottle. The result is 11-12% alcohol by volume, light coloured sparkler with fresh, primary pear, apple, aromas and flavours.
If you’re feeling rich you can shell out for a D.O.C.G. Prosecco from the prestigious, tiny (107 hectare) vineyard sub zone of Cartizze where the grapes grow on top soils and the steepest slopes of the region. It’s a spanking good sparkler. Think of it as the ‘Grand Cru’ of Prosecco.
I’ve been told that Snoothers across the world often entertain each other matching their best wines with wonderful food and pouring interesting reception sparklers to set the mood. Prosecco will no doubt feature bigtime in these aperitif stakes. After reading this piece, your guests may be thinking PTEQ? You can blame me for that but hopefully you’ll be able to say “yes”.
John Downes, one of only 350 Masters of Wine in the world is a corporate entertainer, speaker, television and radio broadcaster and writer on wine.
Check out John’s website at www.johndownes.com.
Follow him on Twitter @JOHNDOWNESMW