Posted by: tomciocco | June 12, 2014

MY FIRST POST ABOUT PROSECCO (!) – MIGHT AS WELL START AT THE TOP

Believe it or not, less than 15 years ago, you almost couldn’t give Prosecco away. ‘Round about that many years ago I took my first job in the wine biz as a saleman for a producer whose mainstay was Prosecco, and let me tell you, it was a tough row to hoe. If liquor store proprietors or bar managers or restauranteurs even knew what Prosecco was, most of them turned up their noses at it, usually making some reference to the great superiority of Champagne and how their customers didn’t know anything about it or even care to learn much about it. My, my how things have changed…

As I believe I mentioned in a recent post about Cava, the only commonalities between wines like Prosecco and Champagne is that they’re white and bubbly. Proseccos are made predominately if not exclusively from the Prosecco (a.k.a. Glera) grape with the possible additions of small amounts of other obscure local grapes endemic to northern Veneto like Bianchetta, Verdiso and Perera. Prosecco is made in the Charmat method which entails first making a still wine from the fruit, and then transferring this primary product into tightly sealable stainless steel tanks called autoclaves. To the base wine more sugar and yeast is added, and the autoclaves are sealed. As the secondary fermentation induced by theses additions occurs, there is a substantial release of CO2. But because the autoclaves do not allow any of the gas to escape, it is forced into solution, making the wine bubbly.

Conversely, Champagne is made from a range of grapes, typically Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, alone or in combination, and by employing a far more complex and costly process with fermentation effected in bottle that involves a process called riddling to collect dead yeast in the bottles’ neck, then several decantings are required to clear the wine, and finally a dosage of sugar water is typically added to finish the wine and further enhance its sparkling character. Like I said, the only real similarities between the two wines is that they’re both white and bubbly.

But it’s now 2014, and Prosecco has very successfully made a path for itself in a very tough market. Now most folks understand the much more “friendly” and drinkable character of Prosecco in comparsion to Champagne, and the Bellini now runs neck in neck with the mimosa at brunch tables everywhere.

But  because of this explosion in popularity, Proseccos from non-traditional growing zones from regions all over Veneto are flooding the market. Now some of these wines are quite lovely, but that said, the most celebrated and traditional D.O.C.G.-level Prosecco di Valdobbiadene/Conegliano (all of the other designations are D.O.C.s or I.G.T.s), which also contains a cru-level wine called Prosecco Superiore di Cartizze that is only slightly less rare than a set of hen’s teeth and commands Champagne prices, are a clear cut above all the rest. Because of the age of many of the vines in this zone, and even more due to its special terroir, Prosecco wines from this appellation (and especially from the town of Valdobbiadene where the Cartizze vineyards are situated) give the drinker the most complex and elegant wine that the Prosecco grape can provide. And for various historical reasons, there is a fairly clear division between Prosecco growers and Prosecco producers, but there are a couple of handful of producers that grow all of their own fruit, allowing them to control quality from soil to shelf. This evening’s wine is made by one of these concerns, and the comprehensiveness in its production clearly shines through in the drinking.

I matched this Prosecco Spumante (the most traditional style of Prosecco is made in the frizzante style that is best desribed as lightly spritzy rather than bubbly) with a first course of artichoke ravioli in a lemon butter and sage sauce followed by a main course of a frittata with ham, Piave cheese, tomato, zucchini and marjoram served with a home made garlic and parsley mayonnaise and some good chewy bread.

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Le Colture Prosecco di Valdobbiadene “Fagher” N.V.

Very pale “platinum” color. Quite persistent and fine perlage. Aromas of green apple, Anjou pear, tangerine, wet stones, white flowers, biscuit, cocoa butter and pale honey . In the mouth the bubbles are vivacious, quite fine, and hang in a well-balanced, medium-light frame with an elegant and chalky and quite vibrant acidity that ctatpult flavors of lime, grapefruit, gooseberry, tart yellow cherry, subtle white spice. The finish is very long with bitterish pine nut flavors.

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