Confessions of a Prosecco Pimp
Admittedly, I am an unapologetic Proseccophile. Yes, I love all sparkling wine, but there is something about the freshness, purity and simplicity of fine Prosecco that lifts my spirits along with my taste buds. And I am not ashamed of putting forth, albeit not so subtly, this unpretentious bubbly to anyone and everyone, so that they too may be seduced by the allure of Prosecco’s charms. Traditionally light and refreshing, there is no better way to bring a touch of conviviality to any occasion.
Prosecco is the white grape variety responsible for the classic Italian sparkler of the same name, made in the Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOC zone in the Veneto region in north-east Italy. The steep, well-drained slopes of this gorgeously scenic area combined with the cool breezes from the Alps and the warm influence of the Adriatic allow the grapes to develop a fresh acidity and a soft peachy character — the wine’s hallmark features. The top crus of Prosecco generally come from the 250-acre cooler Cartizze vineyard zone. The wines from this subzone tend to exhibit more fullness and character, but also an unadulterated purity.
Some people may like Prosecco in classic cocktails like the Bellini, but there really is no better way to enjoy it than on its own, anytime, simply to celebrate a moment.
As with any style of wine, there are producers that stand above the crowd. The following are masters of demonstrating how simplicity can taste good.
In my opinion, the finest producer of Prosecco, bar none. The Bisol family has a long history in the region, but its modern era started in 1950 with the founding of Ruggeri by Giustino Bisol. Today, Paolo Bisol carries on the tradition of his father by working with a number of growers to produce a full range of Prosecco styles.
Their workhorse is the incredibly great-value Giall’Oro Extra Brut ($23.99). Rich and floral, it fills the mouth with lively, full-flavoured bubbles. Good structure with apple flavours, hints of grapefruit, peach and nectarines and a touch of nuttiness. Also wonderful is the Santo Stefano ($23.99), a slightly off-dry sparkler exhibiting beautiful fresh-fruit flavours of apple, pear, peach and citrus. The small, refreshing bubbles of this quaffer dance effortlessly over your palate, finishing with hints of almonds. The Cartizze ($38) and the Giustino B. ($35) rise to another level of quality, but the star is the Vecchie Viti 2006 ($38) — pure, elegant, persistent and delicious; the first time I tasted this, the only description I could muster was, “Wow!”
Tenuta S. Anna
One of several wineries owned by insurance giant Genagicola — but you would never know it. The conglomerate allows their winemakers to make great wine without corporate pressure to homogenize the wines. The result is wines of great quality, character and value. The Prosecco Frizzante ($13.99) is a great deal with soft, tiny bubbles and hints of peach and pear, while the Prosecco Brut ($19.99) shows a fuller body and slightly more complex flavours.
Like the Bisol family, Nino Franco took over from where his father Antonio left off. But it is Nino’s son Primo who has brought the wines into the next generation. The Rustico ($23) is creamy and light with hints of apple and a little bitter almond on the finish, while the Rive di San Floriano ($29) shows aromas of pear and fresh-baked bread, delicate fleshy peach flavours and a lengthy finish.
Mionetto’s Il Prosecco ($18.99) is not only easy on your wallet, it will put you in the mood for a party. The beer cap and funky packaging are clearly aimed at attracting a younger market, but the quality is still evident. Quaffable, light and tasty, don’t be surprised to see Il Prosecco showing up at college-dorm parties as the next “in” drink.
One of the finer producers from Conegliano, its Prosecco Brut ($20) is fragrant with aromas of peach and citrus and soft, pleasing and zesty on the palate. The Zeta ($28) is bright with more complex layers of peach, citrus and hints of tropical fruit.