Before I started writing this blog, I had a love/hate relationship with Prosecco. Actually, it was pretty much a hate only relationship since most of the Prosecco available in the US had only one main attribute for me: it was cheap. There was not much flavor other than an acrid nuttiness that was not really all that appealing at all (at least to me).
I will freely admit that some of my angst directed at Prosecco was my identity as a Champagne snob—Prosecco is made with the Glera grape (at least 85%) and not by the traditional or champagne method, but by the Charmat or Martinotti method, which as a champagne snob, one is required to see as inferior. (The two methods both start with a still wine and then a second fermentation is induced [which creates the effervescence]. In Champagne, this happens in the bottle, whereas it occurs in a large tank in Methodo Martinotti.)
A few years into this blog, though, I had a fantastic lunch with Silvia Franco of Prosecco producer Nino Franco in New York City and she introduced me to Prosecco Superiore DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita or Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin). It turned out that the Prosecco for which I had so much disdain was Prosecco DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata or Denomination of Controlled Origin), which comes from the valley floor where the fruit is machine-picked and the wines are made on a massive scale.
Silvia stressed that there is a huge difference between the DOC and DOCG wines, the latter coming from the intensely hilly areas around the two Veneto towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene (there are actually 15 different communes that can use the designation, but that level of minutiae is for another post).
[There are two other designations within the Prosecco Superiore DOCG that are of even higher quality: Prosecco Superiore Rive DOCG (which comes from specific villages or vineyards) and Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG (which comes from one specific ridiculously steep hill in Valdobbiadene, which is considered the Grand Cru of Prosecco.]
Over the past decade prosecco has consistently seen double-digit percentage growth in sales (and has seen over 20% growth every year since 2013) and that type of growth is expected to continue in the near future (Wine Industry Advisor).
Much of that growth is attributed to new sparkling wine drinkers whose search for bubbles focused on wines in the $10-20 range, and once those new drinkers get a taste of sparkling wine, they soon are looking for higher quality bubbles to fill their glasses. As a result, this country is seeing an increase in the importation of the higher quality Prosecco Superiore DOCG wines, a few of which I sampled recently.
Masottina Prosecco Superiore Conegliano Valdobbiadene Brut DOCG: Retail $22. Bright citrus and lemon rind accented with hazelnut and minerality. On the palate all that citrusy goodness is there, as is a vibrant, bubble-induced tingle, and loads of acidity. There is also some noticeable sweetness, which helps to tamper the tartness. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
Fagher Prosecco Superiore ‘Le Colture’ Valdobbiadene Brut DOCG: Retail $20. On their website, Fagher calls this their “most modern Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG” while I am not entirely sure what they mean by “modern” this is certainly tasty: lemon and orange rind with a distinctive yeastiness—almost a baked potato aspect to the nose. On the palate, considerably drier than the Masottina with lemon and lime, minerality, and a toasty, vibrant finish. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
Villa Sandi Prosecco Superiore Valdobbiadene Extra Dry DOCG: Retail $$25. The golden color in the clear bottle is reminiscent of a slightly diluted apple juice with intense white acacia flower with red and golden apple on the nose—this is a departure from the citrus dominance in the first two. On the palate this is a change as well, as that acacia florality is fairly intense, as is the acidity. This is labeled as “Extra Dry” which means there is more sugar added than there is in a Brut, but all that acidity tampers that sugar, making it feel much drier than it is. The finish is pure golden apple, lingering for quite some time. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
Nino Franco Prosecco Superiore Rustico Valdobbiadene Brut DOCG: Retail $20. Straw colored with a slight green tinge, tiny persistent bubbles, delicately perfumed with white flowers, Asian pear, and white peach on the nose. To me, Nino Franco and Rustico are the standard bearers of Prosecco Superiore, and tasting this wine again only confirms my stance: bright, fresh, balanced. Fruit, tartness, depth—I warn all against trying a bottle of Nino Franco, for once one does, it is nearly impossible to go back to drinking Prosecco DOC. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.