I’ll never forget my first one. It was in springtime in Sienna. I’m a bit fuzzy on the year, but it was post lira and the dollar was 80¢ to the euro (far better than $1.38 today) so quite a few years ago. And I very clearly recall the beautiful Tod’s shoes I bought that I’d never be able to afford at today’s exchange rate. And the soft leather, chestnut brown handbag with the brass pull. But I digress… Prosecco is an easy to drink, unpretentious Italian sparkling white wine. It’s like your fun and carefree friend, not the brooding, contemplative, serious one. Prosecco is produced in the Veneto and Fruili regions located in the northeast of Italy. Earlier this month, I toured the gorgeous Valdobbiadene and Conigliano areas of the Veneto, home of D.O.C.G. Prosecco (more about D.O.C.G. later). Cristina, a native of the area and Prosecco aficionado was my guide and I learned so much as we toured and tasted, I want to share.
1) Follow along with this one – Prosecco was originally named after the Prosecco grape which was named for the town of Prosecco near Trieste where the grape originally came from. For hundreds of years, the grape was called Prosecco, but since 2010, the grape variety is now called Glera and the geographical region is called Prosecco. As one of the wine makers told me, this change is to prevent the grape being grown in other parts of the world and still being called Prosecco. Prosecco comes only from this region of Italy. End of story.
2) A bottle of Prosecco should be drunk young and fresh – it’s an uncomplicated wine and doesn’t improve with age. It’s not something you save for your 25th wedding anniversary or your daughter’s wedding – unless these happy events are celebrated within the year (or you don’t like your spouse or wedding guests).
3) Prosecco should be stored in a cool, dark place and served in a large tulip-shaped glass at 43-46° F/6-8° C. Flute glasses are not recommended.
4) Prosecco has either a D.O.C.G. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) which is the highest quality distinction of Italian wine or a D.O.C. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) certification depending on the zone of production. Either of these credentials means the Prosecco must follow certain requirements imposed by the Italian government.
5) In 2013, worldwide Prosecco sales grew by 30% according to Corriere Vinicolo, the Italian Wine Trade Publication. Globally, Prosecco has surpassed Champagne on volume sales – 307 million bottles of Prosecco vs. 304 million bottles of Champagne.
6) The highest quality and most expensive type of Prosecco is Cartizze, which comes from a small sub zone of 265 hillside acres (107 hectares). The land has a very special terroir and is some of the world’s most expensive vineyard real estate with one acre of Cartizze (2.5 hectares) costing over $1.3 million. From this small, exclusive region, there are 140 Cartizze growers producing 1.4 million bottles per year.
7) Prosecco Superiore comes in three versions that vary based on their residual sugar content. From driest to sweetest they are – Brut, Extra Dry and Dry. Extra Dry is considered the most traditional type but taste testing is always the best way to determine your personal preference – so go ahead and let me know what you think!
8) The entire region covers 13,000 acres (5,200 hectares) and the vineyards are all tended and the grapes picked by hand.
9) There are only 69 calories in a 3.5 oz/100 ml glass of Prosecco – since I’m a numbers (and calorie counting) person, I’ll finish the calculation for you. That’s 517 calories in a bottle divided by 2 people = 258 calories; find a few more friends and it’s 129 calories. That’s way less than in a small gelato.
10) A Spritz is a very popular Italian drink made with Prosecco, seltzer and either Campari or Aperol. Watch Giorgio make the perfect one or try a Bellini, one of Venice’s most favorite drinks. A smooth, refreshing, everyday, accessible wine – Prosecco is light, casual and undemanding….and you never, ever need an excuse to open a bottle. So pop open the cork, pour yourself a glass, hold it high, look someone in the eye and say “Cin Cin”!