Last year, I reviewed several higher end Proseccos to consider for holiday celebrations. The following is an update of that article with several more wines currently available….
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 in New York City with Silvia Franco of Prosecco producer Nino Franco 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). The key point to take away? When looking for a higher quality Prosecco, make sure that it is labeled as a DOCG and not simply DOC.
[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.
NV Andreola Mas de Fer Rive di Soligo Prosecco Superiore Valdobbiadene Extra Dry DOCG: Retail $25. 100% Glera. This wine has a bit of sugar on it (a few grams per liter more than a standard Brut). Why? I’m not entirely sure. For years, Prosecco producers added a bit of sugar to mask the inherent bitterness of the wine. But now, with modern winemaking techniques resulting in higher quality fruit, why sweeten it up? Nonetheless, fantastic aromas of citrus, lemon cake, an almond/walnut aspect, and some minerality. On the palate, there is that sweetness, but it’s subtle with great flavors. Solid. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2016 BiancaVigna Prosecco Superiore Brut Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG: Retail $20. 100% Glera. Faint straw color with minerality and pear on the shy side. The palate is clean and precise with just the slightest hint of sweetness—it pairs wonderfully with the tartness and minerality. Nice. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2017 Brancher Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry Valdobbiadene DOCG: Retail $20. 100% Glera. Just a faint straw yellow hue to the wine, but loaded with green and golden apple on the nose. A fine sparkle and a nutty acidity characterize the palate with that golden apple coming through on the finish. The added sweetness here adds to the experience (i.e., good choice!). Very Nice. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
NV Canevel Valdobbiadene Surperiore di Cartizze DOCG Dry: Retail $25. 100% Glera. This comes from arguably the top sub region of the DOCG (which is where the best Prosecco is made), and it is not Brut, but Dry. (Dry is sweeter than Extra Dry, which is sweeter than Brut, which means “dry.” Did you get all that?). I am not sure why, but when you have (presumably) great fruit like this, why mask it with all that sugar? Don’t get me wrong, this is fantastic with citrus, green apple, a bit of yeast on the nose and good acidity and flavors on the palate, but the typical complexity of Cartizze is obscured by the sweetness. Would love to taste this as a Brut or (to confuse you more) as an Extra Brut, which is drier than Brut (which means “dry”). Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2017 Ca’ Di Rajo Prosecco Superiore Valdobbiadene Brut DOCG: Retail $17. 100% Glera. Pale straw with a green tinge and oodles of pear and apple on the nose. The palate is quite dry with some subtle fruit and a vibrant sparkle. Quite tasty and the lack of sweetness is a nice departure from some of the others on this list. Still, this is slightly lacking in depth. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
NV Perlage Riva Moretta Vino Frizzante Prosecco Valdobbiadene DOCG: Retail $23. 100% Glera. A Frizzante wine (which means it has slightly less pressure than the standard Prosecco, made from organic fruit. Noticeably less sparkle (closed with a more “traditional” still-wine type cork, which was a bear to get out) with barely any color at all. Golden apple and white flowers on a rather shy nose lead to a delightful palate of green apple and considerable minerality. The sweetness (15g/l) is noticeable, but melds in well with the acidity. Nice. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
NV Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco Superiore Brut Valdobbiadene DOCG: Retail $22. 100% Glera. I have written more about Nino Franco than perhaps all other Prosecco combined on this site. Why? Well, Primo Franco and his daughter Silvia are two of the nicest people I have ever met. Oh, and their wines are phenomenal. This is their largest production wine and really my go-to sparkler under $30. Clean, bright, delicious with pear, almond paste, and acacia flower characterizing the nose and the palate. This is the wine that I open when someone tells me that they don’t like Prosecco, and it has not failed to have them reconsider their stance. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.