Sales of prosecco sparkling wine approach one billion bottles a year, but the quality can vary wildly, warns Des Houghton.
Prosecco sales have reached almost 800 million bottles per year. And it will only be a few years before sales reach one billion, says Tyson Stelzer, ambassador for the Italian producer collective, the Consorzio di Tutela.
The rise and rise of prosecco has been amazing and not just in a winemaking sense. It’s also a triumph of Italian agriculture, says Stelzer.
The Italians are ready to target Australia with a dazzling array of premium prosecco styles from the province of Treviso, 50km northeast of Venice.
Some are already there. You can recognize them by the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG labels, Stelzer explains.
The DOCG label (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) of the Conegliano Valdobbiadene region is an assurance of quality. This is the highest mark a wine appellation can obtain from the Italian Ministry of Agriculture.
Aussies are used to some mundane prosecco described disparagingly as “cheap and cheerful”. It is widely used in cocktails.
The classy prosecco is a cut above.
These finest examples are made with the care and attention that the French devote to Champagne making – but cost a fraction of the price.
Most “prosecco superiore” grapes are grown in vineyards on slopes so steep that they are too dangerous for mechanical pickers. Thus, the grapes are picked by hand and transported upwards in buckets on a system of pulleys.
I visited the area with the help of the Consorzio di Tutela.
For every 100 bottles of prosecco on the market, only 16 will come from the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore region.
This region was once one of the poorest in Italy. Today it is one of the most successful. The glera grapes that produce prosecco have been grown in Treviso for more than three centuries, but it’s only in the last 55 years that prosecco’s fortunes have exploded globally.
Many “small” family businesses produce a million bottles or more per year.
There is even a prosecco tourist trail with breathtaking scenery and a collection of villages rich in history and art.
Prosecco can come in the lightly bubbly frizzante style or the more effervescent spumante.
Frizzante prosecco typically displays scents of wisteria and lemon, while spumante styles offer hints of apple, rose, and banana.
Here are some of my favorites tasted during masterclasses at the Consorzio headquarters and at a winemakers dinner:
Villa Sandi Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG 120 La Rivetta. A fragrant aperitif with aromas of green apples, wisteria and acacia flowers.
Find the aromas and flavors of pear, peach and apple in Adami Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Asciutto Rive di Colbertaldo. Forget technical descriptions, said Enrico Valleferro. “Ask yourself, does this make me happy and do I want another sip?”
L’antica Quercia Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Sui Liviti Brut. Very dry, with lovely floral notes.
La Gioiosa Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Spumante Extra Dry. A welcome tension between acid and sugar. Fresh, lively.
Luigi’s Gemin Madre Paola Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Dry Millesimato 2021 is an elegant offering with scents of peaches and wildflowers. There is a pleasant balance between sugar and acidity.
There was sophistication, structure and hints of tropical fruit in the 2011 Masottina Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut Rive di Ogliano. The term rive refers to single-vineyard grapes from steep hillside villages .
There was apple and yeast and other bright fruit and in Spangol Col Des Sas Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut Nature Sui Lievito Fondo 2020.
Americans can get enough of Diotisalvi Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Brut Rive di Farra di Soligo 2010 “Empatico”. A crowd pleaser.