Guide to Italian Wines The charm of Prosecco
© by Tom Hyland

Prosecco
Prosecco producer GianLuca Bisol
Prosecco is Italy's answer to refreshing, well-made sparkling wine at a reasonable price. Made primarily in the district of Valdobbiadene (Val-do-bi-ad-en-ay) near the town of Conegliano in the region of Veneto, Prosecco has quickly become one of the most successful sparkling wine types made today.

Prosecco is the name of the grape that is used to make this sparkling wine and many of the best examples are 100% Prosecco. As this is a grape that is prized for its delicate flavors and aromatics, the wine itself is not made in the classic method made famous in the Champagne district of France. Rather, the Charmat method of sparkling wine is used to make Prosecco as the classic Champagne method would mean aging the wine for several years before release, robbing the wine of its freshness.

Now while the Charmat method is used to make some pretty awful sparkling wine (think of the worst stuff you've ever had to gulp at a wedding reception), in this case the producers of Prosecco use this method to create some truly charming wines that are usually enjoyed within a year of the vintage, although the best can age for several years.

While there are some ordinary examples of Prosecco made, there are a handful of producers that consistently create first-rate examples. Here are notes on three of the finest producers in the area: (unless noted, all are from the current 2001 vintage):

MIONETTO • VALDOBBIADENE

PROSECCO DI VALDOBBIADENE "Frizzante" (DOC)
Made from 100% Prosecco di Valdobbiadene grapes, this has a straw color and small bubbles. A touch of pear and melon in the aroma, this is crisp and clean with nice acidity and has a refreshing dry finish. Sergio Mionetto has decided to use the traditional string (known as "spago") to tie down the cork with this wine- a classy touch and one that other producers are starting to emulate. ($12) ***

PROSECCO BRUT SPUMANTE (IGT)
Made from 100% Prosecco grapes, this has a straw color and small bubbles. The aroma is of lemon and green apples with a touch of spring flowers. This is slightly fuller in flavor and on the palate than the Frizzante bottling and is a touch drier. ($12) ***

SERGIO SPARKLING EXTRA DRY
Sergio Mionetto believes that the extra dry is a more traditional example of Prosecco. This cuvée is made from 90% Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, 5% Bianchetta and 5% Verdiso. This has a pronounced yeastiness in the aroma along with pear and melon notes. Medium-full with a supple mouthfeel and lovely acidity in the off-dry finish. While this would make a lovely aperitif, it has enough character to accompany most pastas (cream sauces would be ideal with this) as well as shellfish. The bottle is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen with the letters MO emblazoned in large print in the glass and the letters "sergio" written in white in small print. ($17) ****

CARTIZZE (DOC)
This wine is named for the finest area in which Prosecco grapes are grown – the Superiore di Cartizze. These are the steepest hills in the Prosecco di Valdobbiadene district and deliver the most intense, complex flavors. Straw color and tiny bubbles with an aroma of white peaches and freshly picked flowers and a subtle yeastiness. Medium-full with a very long finish that is quite dry and offers excellent acidity. This is best served not as an aperitif, but with richer seafood and poultry. A beautiful-looking bottle, similar to the Sergio. One of the most underrated and delicious Italian sparkling wines made today! ($35) *****
Imported by USA Wine Imports, New York, NY

BISOL • VALDOBBIADENE

PROSECCO BRUT "CREDE"
A blend of 85% Prosecco, 10% Pinot Bianco and 5% Verdiso. Straw color with a small bead and a citrus, peach aroma. Medium body, this is clean, fresh and well made. ($14) ***

PROSECCO EXTRA DRY "VIGNETI DEL FOL"
The grapes used to make this cuvée are harvested about ten days after those destined for the "Crede" bottling, so this is a more traditional Prosecco. Straw with a persistent bead and creamy mousse, this has an aroma of apples and pears. A pleasant off-dry, citrusy, lemony finish. Not imported in the US, the price in Euros is 7.50. ***

CARTIZZE
Straw, with an aroma of apple and pear. Medium-full with very good concentration and a crisp, dry finish. Very elegant finish that offers fine acidity. Not imported in the US, the price in Euros is 11.00. ****

NINO FRANCO • VALDOBBIADENE

PROSECCO "SASSI BIANCHI"
Straw color with a strong aroma of pears, citrus and yeast. Medium-body with good concentration. Well balanced finish that is dry with very nice acidity. ($12) ***

PROSECCO "RUSTICO"
Straw color with a beautiful creamy mousse and a lovely perfumed aroma of golden apples and white peaches. Medium-bodied with very good concentration. Soft finish - delicious! ($15) ****

PROSECCO BRUT "RIVE DI SAN FLORIANO"
Straw-light yellow color with a hint of almonds in the aroma to go with notes of pineapple and lemon oil. Medium-full with excellent concentration. Long, dry finish with excellent acidity. Very stylish and attractive. ($18) ****

PROSECCO "PRIMO FRANCO"
Straw-light yellow with a lovely mousse. Attractive aroma of roses, raspberries and white peaches. Medium-bodied with excellent concentration. Long, ultra-smooth finish that is lightly sweet. This is Prosecco at its best and most charming! ($16) *****

CARTIZZE
Light yellow with a gorgeous aroma of banana, golden apples and a touch of honey. Medium-full with excellent concentration and a long, elegant finish. Beautiful structure throughout, this is quite rich and satisfying. This would be ideal with many types of seafood, especially calamari or crab. ($29) *****
Imported by Vin di Vino, Chicago

***** Outstanding
**** Excellent
*** Very Good

July 12, 2002

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