As our thoughts turn to celebrating International Prosecco Day on August 13th this year, we realise that a lot of people might drink Prosecco, but they don’t know why they like some better than others. Well, there’s no better time to put some things straight, so here are six things you need to know about the nation’s most democratic fizz:
1) Prosecco is not trying to be Champagne
Prosecco is an easy drinking, youthful fizz, made to be popped every day without huge pomp or ceremony. Champagne, however, is more complex in flavour and is more expensive to produce, which contributes to its higher prices. This is why Champagne tends to be cracked largely for celebrations, rather than as a refreshing, daily apéritif, like Prosecco.
A big reason for this difference is the production method: Champagne’s ‘traditional method’ is much more time consuming, and therefore expensive, to produce than Prosecco as the bubbles are created inside individual bottles, which are then aged for months or years. Prosecco, on the other hand, is made in larger tanks to create the fizz, and after bottling it can be sold immediately. This is called the ‘tank’ or ‘charmat’ method and is partly why Prosecco is a lot cheaper than Champagne. Time is money, after all! It’s also why Prosecco’s flavour profile is more about simple, fresh, frothy pear and apples, rather than toasty, brioche notes of champagne.
2) The grape used for Prosecco is called ‘Glera’.
The key grape in Prosecco production is ‘Glera’ (this must be 85% of the blend). Combined with the simpler production method mentioned above, this makes Prosecco taste fresh and fruity.
3) Prosecco sweetness levels are super confusing!
We all know wine can be complicated, but the labelling of the sweetness (’dosage’) levels of Prosecco are, in our opinion, pretty bonkers. Not everyone is even aware that there ARE different sweetness levels to look out for with Prosecco! Don’t be that person. Here’s what to look for on the label from driest to sweetest.
Driest: Zero Dosaggio/Nature
Then ‘Extra Brut’
Then ‘Extra Dry’ (who knew, right?)
Then ‘Dry’ (now this is just silly)
Sweetest: Semi Sweet/Demi Sec
So, if it’s dry you want, look for Brut or Extra Brut – or zero dosaggio if you can find it!
4) Frizzante and Spumante mean different things
You may have seen some Prosecco labelled either as ‘Spumante’ or ‘Frizzante’. Frizzante is technically ‘lightly sparkling’, and doesn’t keep its fizz as long as spumante, which means ‘fully sparkling’, will. You can usually tell a frizzante by the special piece of string over the top of the cork. This is know as a ‘spago’ opening. Frizzante is usually cheaper than spumante, too. Sometimes you can also find still Prosecco wines, called ‘tranquilo’ wines. They are quite hard to come by, though.
5) There are different sub regions and quality levels for Prosecco
Prosecco is never just Prosecco. It comes from Northern Italy and can be grown in nine provinces spanning the wine regions of the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia. The most important thing to note here is that quality Prosecco starts with DOC on the label (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) which essentially means it’s been made in a controlled zone of production. If you want to go higher in quality, look for DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita). Like many parts of France, Prosecco from the DOCG quality level can now put their village on the label (look for ‘Rive di…’), which ostensibly points to subtle differences in terroir characteristics. Did you know there was also a kind of ‘Grand Cru’ of Prosecco too? It’s called ‘Cartizze DOCG’: the name of a hill 1,000 feet high which, arguably, grows the best grapes of all due to altitude and ripening ability.
6) Prosecco is the original fizz used for the classic Bellini cocktail
For the best results, use the driest Prosecco you can find and the pulped flesh of a ripe, white peach. Nothing else. If you’re ever in Venice, you must visit Harry’s Bar: the original home of the Bellini. You will never have tasted a more delicious one in your life.
If the thought of a Bellini has inspired a trip to Venice and Valdobbiadene, then check out these wine tours and hotels!