A Couple of Italians Walk into a Bar….

A few weeks ago, I received a couple of samples of Italian wines: A bottle of Prosecco and one of Soave. I have said on this blog before that I am not all that familiar with Italian wines (particularly on the white end of the spectrum) so I was excited to give them a try.

The first was a Mionetto Brut Prosecco. Despite being a bit of a Champagne snob, I have been coming around to Prosecco more and more lately. In part, this is due to the seemingly never ending rise of the price of Champagne—there was a time not too long ago that now could find a very good bottle of Non-Vintage Brut for under $25. Those days are gone, it seems. There has also, at least in my opinion, been a noticeable uptick in the quality of Prosecco. What used to be a rather pedestrian bubbly alternative has become a legitimate (and far less expensive option) for those looking to inject a little sparkle in their life.

This wine comes from one of the larger producers of Prosecco, who curiously still uses “prosecco” as the grape variety used in production. (Back in 2000, the region officially recognized “Glera” as the grape variety used to make Prosecco. Up until that point, the grape was commonly called “Prosecco” but the change occurred in order to protect the integrity of the DOC–they did not want someone being able to call their wine “Prosecco” simply by using the grape). Prosecco is made using a different process, called the Charmat Method, where the second fermentation takes place in stainless steel vats rather than in the bottle (as is the case with the Champagne or Traditional Method).

Mionetto Prosecco Mionetto Brut Prosecco: Retail $13. I do not drink a bunch of Prosecco, and I am not exactly sure why–it might have something to do with my love for Champagne and the fact that Prosecco goes through a different process (OK, that sounds a bit prejudicial—so pretty much a stupid reason). This wine had a nice nutty nose with traces of citrus. On the palate, the nuttiness persists and there is some very nice acidity with a touch of orange peel, which was surprising. All in all, a nice Prosecco, certainly for the price. Very Good. 86-88 Points.

For a long time, I never really “got” Italian white wines. I guess I adopted this position from a good friend of mine (that is even more of a French wine snob than am I–if you can imagine that). For me, most of the Italian whites I have tried have either been rather fat and flabby–lacking the acidity necessary to allow them to be rather serious food wines. Or, they have been utterly devoid of flavor and personality (see my rant on Pinot Grigio). Now I know this is a vast (and perhaps unfair) generalization of the white wines of Italy. I have had some notable exceptions (the wines of Jermann in the Friuli come to mind right away), but since I buy the overwhelming majority of the wines that I drink, I have just avoided Italian whites altogether (of the 1600 wines currently in my cellar, exactly two bottles are white wines from Italy–they are both from the aforementioned Jermann).

Thus, it was with a fair amount of trepidation that I approached the second wine, a bottle of Soave, a white wine from the Veneto region in Northern Italy, near Verona. Garganega is the main variety used in the production of Soave, and although there is a bit of blending allowed with other varieties (mostly Trebbiano di Soave, better known as Verdicchio), the Rocca Sveva is 100% Garganega.

soave_classico_small-1112012 Rocca Sveva Soave Classico: Retail $16. Like the Prosecco, I do not have had a ton of experience with Soave either. The nose initially was quite tropical–with even a bit of banana and guava. On the palate, the acidity was impressive, balancing out the tropics. On the finish, there was a bit of chalkiness, but that aside, I liked the wine–I should go out and grab a bit more…. Very Good. 87-89 Points.

All in all, I was quite impressed with my (very) little foray into Italian white wines. This has certainly helped chip away at some of the prejudices I have held since my years leading bike trips around Europe. If these two are any indication, I certainly will be not so quick to judge (at least when it comes to Italian bubbles and white wines–I reserve the right to be overly judgmental in all other aspects of my life).

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About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Garganega, Glera, Prosecco, Soave, Wine and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to A Couple of Italians Walk into a Bar….

  1. I don’t drink a lot of Prosecco, either. Probably because (in my mind) Prosecco conjures up a notion of sweetness . . . and I like my Bubbles DRY!! Holiday Resolution: Experiment with Brut Proseccos! Salud!!

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    • I am with you on that one! The sweetness to me was there to hide some other issues (like acidity imbalance), and it never quite worked. The Proseccos I have been trying more recently are certainly dry but offer more fruit than does your typical NV Brut. A contrast in style that is intriguing and dare I say appealing….

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  2. talkavino says:

    Glad to see you turning around, Jeff : )

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  3. Danielle says:

    My mother is Champenoise … I will never be able to Proseco. And I am a bit of a French white snob as well, (although I have had many good Italian reds.) That said, I recently tried Roero Arneis-Fratelli Povero as was recommended with food and found it quite enjoyable.

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  4. Love your comments! I’m actually a fan of all things bubbly – I love learning about different styles and methods – it forces me to work on training my palate. Thank you for posting!

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  5. You ever have Mondoro? It’s a wine guilty pleasure if there ever was one – $8 sparkling asti, semi-dry, with beautiful aromas of orange blossoms… First had it in somm school and it was a prime example of the value of keeping an open mind.

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  6. If you ever get a chance to try Franciacorta, which is Italy’s real answer to Champagne, you might be pleasantly surprised. Agreed that Prosecco tends be closer to off-dry than dry most of the time, but I’ve had a couple of dry one’s that have been very good for the price. My issue with Prosecco tends to be the size of the bubbles compared to other bubbly made using the traditional French method…

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  7. Got back from Italy recently… you would be surprised. Italian whites rock! You want to taste a Soave that will knock your socks off? Try the one produced by Pieropan. It was heavenly! How about a chardonnay that would give Burgundy a run for its money? Try Cantina Terlano… the wine has so much mineral, it precipitates rock after 7-8 years! I witnessed a 1996 chardonnay still aging in the barrel! I tasted a 1996 Pinot Blanc, a 2000 Chardonnay and a 2005 Sauv Blanc – all were better for the age! It was really amazing. Take a look at the tasting notes: http://www.cellartracker.com/event.asp?iEvent=22461&searchId=37E9E350&UISource=list.

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  8. vinoinlove says:

    Glad to see you getting into the world of Italian wine 🙂
    As Martin said in the above comment you should try Franciacorta and Trento DOC (an appellation exclusive to Traditional Method sparkling wine produced with Chardonnay and Pinot grapes). Trento DOC is probably the closest an Italian sparkling wine can get to a Champagne. Try Ferrari for example 🙂

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    • I know I should try more Franciacorta, really! One of the problems is that the state stores here in PA really do not carry it. I also think that sparkling wines need to compete on both price and quality for me to look away from Champagne….

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  9. Glad your palate got to experience this (sampling) palette of Italian whites. I comfortably shifted my relationship with Champagne when I was introduced to Prosecco a few years back. Many are delightful and Soave’s can be a solid staple. Thanks for highlighting both!

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  10. We recently had a couple of Prosecco sparklings in our Italian wine and pizza party samples. Both were very dry but still packing some interesting flavours. The sparkling lovers would have drunk more of it is it was there!

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  11. Thanks with Christmas around the corner will try the Prosecco.

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  12. Lauzan says:

    Well, I’m not a wine expert but I come from Tuscany and I know a few things about our delicious wines. So if you ever get the chance try the Elba Bianco Spumante DOC, a very interesting and nice sparkling Tuscan wine, perfect for desserts (and also fish).

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  13. glwelden says:

    Definitely try the Franciacorta region! A really excellent example is the Montenisa Brut from the Antinori stable. In fact, Antinori’s estates have some GREAT whites you should try if you need converting/convincing – including Cervaro della Sala Chardonnay – one of the most awarded white wines (but therefore pricey however, be warned). They do a great Orvieto Classico also, San Giovanni della Sala, and also their range from Puglia, Tormaresca, has some great value whites including Fiano. I could wax lyrical forever, but probably better to check out my more recent blog posts (shameless plug) 😉 Seriously though, if you need further recommendations of great whites would be happy to share. Keep up the great work!

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  14. I’ve never really tried Prosecco, but will definitely give it a go! Being South African I tend to stick to local wines and am really enjoying Springfields ‘Wholeberry’ Cab Sav – have a feeling that you might enjoy it, too 🙂

    Thanks for the awesome post!

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  15. timmilford says:

    I’ve also been looking at Champagne alternatives recently and have been finding a lot of well-made and reasonably priced Cavas. Definitely worth checking out!

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