A Prosecco Primer

What you need to know about Italy's playful sparkler.



Prosecco is a rarity in Italy. Because of the phenomenal success of this fresh and fragrant Italian sparkler, producers have banded together to implement major reforms aimed at protecting Prosecco. The grape’s name has been changed from “Prosecco” to “Glera” and the region that produces the wine has been divided into a small, hillside area called Prosecco Superiore as well as a larger area simply referred to as Prosecco. 

Like Pinot Noir or Pinot Grigio, anyone—from Brazil to Timbuktu—had the right to plant the grape formally-known as Prosecco and put the word “Prosecco” on the bottle. But the recent reforms (including changing the name of the grape) now define Prosecco as a geographic area instead. Specifically, the production areas now include the broad Prosecco DOC as well as the site specific areas of Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore and Prosecco Colli Asolani.  “It seems my parents’ generation

didn’t do a very good job of protecting what was rightfully theirs,” says Alberto Ruggeri, a young producer who runs Le Colture in S. Stefano di Valdobbiadene. “Back then, no one knew Prosecco would be so big.”

Getting down to basics

Prosecco is produced primarily in northeastern Italy’s Veneto. The best, quality-driven Prosecco comes from the area between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene.This region is regulated by the DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) entity that ensures consistency and quality. The metodo Italiano (also known as Charmat), in which secondary fermentation occurs in stainless steel tanks to produce the wine’s perky effervescence, was invented in Conegliano to be used specifically with the semi-aromatic Prosecco grape.

Prosecco is made in three main styles: Brut is the driest, with aromas of white mineral, flower and herbs; Extra Dry has some sweetness and generous aromas of stone fruit, acacia flowers, apple or pear; and Dry, the sweetest, has pretty aromas of honey and fruit salad. Wines that are labeled Cartizze are almost always Dry. Extra Dry represents the most traditional form. 

Unlike other sparking wines, quality Prosecco generally has very thick and foamy effervescence and the high residual sugar helps emphasize the purity of the fruit. Grapes sourced from Conegliano, where soils have more clay and average temperatures are a few degrees higher, are thicker, creamier and redolent of exotic fruit and honey. Delicate floral aromas come from Valdobbiadene (and its Cartizze hills), although the wine’s overall performance is also linked to the residual sugar in the wine. Prosecco DOC is made in flat areas and is often marked by grassy notes of dried herbs or hay.

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