While some sparkling wine leans more toward the contemplative than the whimsical, ideally it all finds its way to some degree into the “Fun” circle of the bubbly Venn Diagram. Nobody yearns for a nice, festive glass of sparkling wine at a wake. But think of all the other places and events that we find it appropriate to pop open a bottle and get our noses tickled.
Most often, for those of us who live a lifestyle that falls somewhere between Formula 1/superyacht and NASCAR/bass boat, sparkling wine is reserved for what we call special occasions. I can’t understand why this is true except that a lot of sparkling wine is kind of pricey, especially the stuff that comes from the place where it all began, Champagne.
I would love to see sparkling wine kicking off many more occasions, making the ones that we don’t outright label as “special,” special nonetheless by virtue of bubble presence. One way to get your sparkle on more often is to embrace prosecco, the affordable effervescent wine from northeastern Italy. It is light, accessible, refreshing and often so inexpensive that you could go around collecting the change buried under your seat cushions and almost have enough for a bottle. Plus, you basically just cleaned your entire house — so pop open a bottle and celebrate!
Prosecco is like Champagne in that it comes from a legally protected place, most of which is near Venice in the larger Veneto region (but also in neighboring Friuli-Venezia Giulia). The wine is made predominantly of a white grape variety that has been called glera since 2009 and was called prosecco before that. The grape’s name change was meant to protect the area’s unique, established regional “brand,” assuring that only winemakers within the prosecco zone could label their wines prosecco.
One reason the wine is so affordable is that it is made via the cost-efficient tank method, known as Charmat, and not via the pricier traditional method that involves secondary fermentation in bottles. Charmat takes care of the bubbles all at once in a large, pressurized tank. Thus, “tank method.”
Prosecco can give off aromas and flavors of citrus, pear, apple, peach and honey, with varying degrees of bubble intensity. It works well as an aperitif and is very food-friendly, a good companion to everything from light appetizers and fried anything to sushi and semispicy Asian fare. It is especially good with outside air and views of tree-lined vacation lakes, or twinkling cityscapes. Make sure it is well-chilled, and you can’t go wrong.
Prosecco also lends the bubbles to a few wine cocktails. One is the bellini, a Venetian concoction that combines prosecco and peach juice. The legendary Harry’s Bar is where that one came to life. The Aperol spritz contains prosecco, the bitter liqueur and a splash of soda, garnished with an orange slice and sometimes a pimento-stuffed olive. There are surely many other prosecco-friendly cocktails, and one of them is the brunch classic mimosa. Orange juice and bubbles. Why spend $50 on sparkling wine when you can spend $15, especially when you’re drowning it in O.J.?
Most prosecco is nonvintage, and the best of it comes from the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene D.O.C.G. region, the extra G guaranteeing the highest quality of the wine. Below are some prosecco wines from a recent tasting, listed in ascending order by price. All are prosecco D.O.C. wines, unless noted as D.O.C.G., which also allows the wine to carry the “Prosecco Superiore” designation. Most of them are made of 100 percent glera, and each one lands in the neighborhood of a moderate 11 percent alcohol, which means you can have an extra glass and still be able to say “Conegliano-Valdobbiadene” 10 times fast.
Tiamo Prosecco. Soft and creamy with a gentle fizz that carries waves of apple and honey, this extra dry prosecco was made from certified organic grapes grown both in and around the town of Valdobbiadene. $15
Martini & Rossi Prosecco. Pear and tiny whiffs of anise give way to a pleasant minerality in this extra dry refresher with aggressive bubbles to wake up your mouth and scrub your palate clean after every bite. $15
The White Knight Prosecco Brut. This one starts with floral, powdered sugar candy aromas and proceeds to a clean citrusy finish, with lively, persistent bubbles. Certainly good with food but fun to drink on its own, too. $15
Zardetto Prosecco Brut. Floral and peachy, this wine ups the sweetness and alcohol (11.5 percent) just a touch but sill finishes crisply. Its bubbles are more frothy than individually zingy, resulting in a creamy mouthfeel. $16
Zonin Prosecco Grey. Part of the White/Grey/Black Dress Code series from Zonin, this one comes in an opaque silvery bottle, delivering minerality, salinity, spice and bright fruitiness from its inclusion of 13 percent pinot grigio. $17
Carpene Malvolti 1868 Extra Dry. A hint of smoke and minerality lead to layers of toast and lemon in this complex Conegliano-Valdobbiadene D.O.C.G. sparkler. This wine is worth every coin you find in the sofa, and many more. $19
2014 Adriano Adami Col Credas Brut Rive di Farra di Soligo. “Adami Col Credas” are the words to remember when you are shopping for this single-vineyard Conegliano-Valdobbiadene D.O.C.G. wine, which starts with flowers and apples, and ends with fresh lemons. $22
2014 Bisol Crede Brut. From the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene D.O.C.G., this is another vintage prosecco, but it says so only in the fine print. Expect pear and bread aromas to lead to apple flavors, with a soft mouthfeel and a crisp, citrus finish. $25