Dry, Extra Dry, Brut, DOC, DOCG or Cartizze?
Never Draught Prosecco = Fake Prosecco!
In general, ladies tend to prefer the ‘Extra Dry’ style of Prosecco finding the ‘Brut’ a little too dry and the ‘Dry’ a little too sweet. The fizz in lower quality bottles of Prosecco can disappear from the glass very quickly and the Prosecco can taste quite flat. Good Prosecco should have a fine ‘Perlage’ which refers to the thousands of small bubbles. The smaller the bubbles the better. It should be a straw almost clear colour with a greenish tinge hinting at the youth of the wine, intensely aromatic and crisp in flavour, with aromatic fruity notes of apple, pear and white flowers such as accacia. You should be getting a long lingering flavour of the freshness and fruitiness of the grapes after you sip.
Prosecco is produced in the Province of Treviso North of Venice from the Glera grape variety. Unlike Champagne, it is made with the Charmat method of producing sparkling wine, in which the second fermentation takes place in pressurised tanks rather than in the bottle. The first fermentation produces a still wine, and the bubbles are put in during the second fermentation in autoclaves or steel tanks. The shorter, less labour intensive method is ideal for Prosecco as it preserves the crisp, young, fresh flavor of the grapes and also helps affordability.
However, as with Champagne, there are various types of Prosecco and there are also low, medium and high (or superior) quality Prosecco. If the restaurant you’re buying your bottle of Prosecco in has had it sitting there from last year, or it was of questionable quality to begin with, then you’re probably not going to enjoy a great bottle of Prosecco. Only is your bottle says ‘Millesimato’ on the front label of the Prosecco, is the producer obliged to print the year of vintage on the rear label. Therefore buying a ‘Millesimato’ Prosecco is the only way to guarantee that you are not drinking a Prosecco that is too old for consumption. Prosecco should ideally be consumed within the year of vintage but ideally 2 years maximum. If the supplier re-bottles several times a year, the Prosecco will also be more fresh as the less time it spends in the bottle, the better! Bear in mind that for current vintage, the new harvest doesn’t happen until the end of September each year, so you would start to get e.g. 2016 vintage (still currently in the ground at time of writing) around November 2016. You’ll still be drinking 2015 vintage up until the end of October at least.
DOC, DOCG or Cartizze?
Just as with Champagne, there are low, medium and high quality Prosecco. In terms of quality certification of Prosecco DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) and then the higher Certification level being DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Guarantita). The highest possible quality of Prosecco called ‘Cartizze’ is effectively the Grand Cru of Prosecco made from selected grapes from a very Limited and tightly controlled production zone made up of a 1,000 hectare hill in Valdobbiadene / Conegliano. It costs over €1 Million to purchase a single hectare of this land and it is currently being operated by 170 different producers. Cartizze Prosecco is very sought after, very limited production and so rarely found outside of Italy. You can now find it on the wine menu of The Merchant Hotel in Belfast though!
Prosecco is mainly produced as a sparkling wine in either the fully sparkling (spumante) or lightly sparkling (frizzante, gentile) varieties. Prosecco spumante, which has undergone a full secondary fermentation, is the more expensive variant. The sparkling variants may contain some Pinot bianco or Pinot grigio wine but by law must contain 85% Glera (the Prosecco grape) and the best Prosecco are made from 100% Gelera. Blends tend to be used where there is a desire to increase production capacity in more commercial examples.
Depending on their sweetness, in accordance with the EU Sweetness of wine Regulations for Terms used to indicate sweetness of sparkling wine, Proseccos are labelled “Brut” (up to 12 grams per litre of residual sugar), “Extra Dry” (12–17 g/l) or “Dry” (17–32 g/l).
Wines from the traditional Conegliano–Valdobbiadene production area are labelled as “Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene”, “Prosecco di Conegliano” or “Prosecco di Valdobbiadene” or “Prosecco DOC” from Friuli. A new system of Rive (similar to the Cru system in France) are now also being introduced to reward producers in Commune who meet particular quality standards and lower quotas of production with being able to put the name of the local Commune / Council area on their label.
Remember that Prosecco is only Prosecco when it comes from the area shown on the map here.