It’s National Prosecco Day and nothing says La Dolce Vita(living the good life) than a bottle of Prosecco. Today is the day to raise a glass to this all Italian bubbly that Americans so fondly drink. It is a drink for hot summer days, girls night out, festive celebrations or to sip on the beach. American have been drinking Prosecco for years and sales are at an all time high, and why not, it is light, refreshing, festive and wallet friendly.
As American appetite for Prosecco rises, it is time to understand this category in greater depth. Not all Proseccos are created equally. There is a vast difference between Prosecco DOC and Prosecco DOCG. Prosecco Superiore DOCG needs to be differentiated, understood and appreciated on this National Prosecco Day.
Officially known as Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG, is a region located in the Veneto region of Northern Italy. Prosecco DOCG is the area between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene between Venice and the Dolomites. With 15 communes, the terroir is what makes Prosecco DOCG significantly superior in quality and style. The wines are of the highest quality and in August of 2009, it was awarded the DOCG appellation designation, placing it amongst Italy’s greatest wines. The region is also on its way to becoming a UNESCO world heritage site.
Prosecco DOC vs Prosecco DOCG
DOC is designation of controlled origin and DOCG is designation of controlled origin and guaranteed. Prosecco DOC is at the base of the pyramid, producing large quantities of wine on the valley floor of the region of Treviso. The wines made under Prosecco DOCG are grown on the steep hillsides and have stricter guidelines and unique terroir.
Reasons Prosecco DOCG is Superior
The Prosecco produced in Conegliano Valdobbiadene is extremely special because of its history and terroir. The elevation, the mild climate, and the soils all make for ideal conditions to make superior Prosecco.
Wines have been grown in the region since ancient times, but the first references to Prosecco date back to 1772 where academic Francesco Maria Malvoti wrote about the quality of local wine making. Back in the day, many styles of wines were produced in the region, but through local expertise and dedication, Prosecco became the only style of wine produced in Conegliano Valdobbiadene . The success of Prosecco began in 1876 with the founding of Italy’s first Oenology School. The school still resides in Conegliano.
The elevation of the land is extremely steep and the cultivation of the vines require hand harvesting. The elevation of the vines make this area dangerously challenging to harvest. Most of the wines are made by small producers in an artisanal style.
The area is relatively small in size representing about 6500 hectares of vines with an even smaller 107 hectares in Cartizze(the “Grand Cru” of the DOCG). The wines must be made from 85% Glera grapes and up to 15% can be made up of Verdiso, Bianchetta, Perera, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. The wine is made in the Italian method, whereby the wine is fermented in temperature controlled steel tanks, also known as the Charmat Method. This process delivers wines that are fresh, floral and light. The wines are bottled with strict guidelines and have to be tasted and inspected by the Consorzio before release.
Tiers of Prosecco DOCG
- Prosecco DOCG represents the 15 communes located in between the two towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene
- Prosecco DOCG Rive represents 43 specific delineated areas that have distinctive soil, exposure, and microclimates. Rive in the local language means slopes of the steep hills. These wines have low yields, are hand picked and vintage dated.
- Prosecco DOCG Superiore di Cartizze is the highest quality of wines coming from the region. It is the “Grand Cru” of all Proseccos with only 107 hectares of the steepest slopes on the hills of San Pietro di Barbozza, Santo Stefano, and Saccol.
Styles of Prosecco DOCG
Prosecco DOCG wines are categorized by their bubbles: Spumante which is sparkling, Frizzante which is effervescent with light bubbles and Tranquillo which is their still white wine. Next be sure to look for sugar levels on the label. The wines are labeled Brut(12 grams RS), Extra Dry(12-17 grams RS) and Dry(17+ grams RS).
Prosecco DOGC in New York City
I recently had the opportunity in New York City to dine with a few members of the Board of The Consorzio di Tutela del Vino Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco. The dinner was held at Leuca, an Andrew Carmellini restaurant with a Southern Italian menu. The evening was incredibly delish and an eye opening experience. Not only did we taste marvelous Proseccos, but we also had a chance to taste them with many different foods and flavor profiles. The experience of the entire evening revealed the complexities of Prosecco DOCG. Prosecco DOCG are great as an aperitivo, but are even more appropriate with food pairings. The wines are complex yet versatile enough to be paired with a variety of cuisines.
Below are Seven Prosecco DOCG wines that were paired perfectly by Leuca over appetizers and a five course menu.
This wine is extra special because it was one of the first wineries in region to produce organic and biodynamic wines. It is perfect as an aperitivo but was even more special paired with some light tapas style bites like, fried olives and local fish ceviche. There was nice floral aromas with apple and melon on the palate. A long persistent finish made the wine memorable.
Notes of flowers, wild honey, and apples are present in this sparkling wine. A stunning Prosecco that paired perfectly with tuna tartare and crispy potato skins.
An elegant Prosecco with notes of pear, apple and white fruit. The wine has a creamy texture with nice minerality. This was paired with a tuna crudo prepared with green olives, chili and farro. The chef also created a second pairing of bass tartare with sunflower pesto and radishes.
The Malibran was an incredible and elegant wine that took me by surprise. It was complex with a bit of brioche and yeastiness and was slightly off dry with notes of peach and pear. This paired beautifully with charred cabbage and prawns ala braca wrapped in lardo and rosemary.
The Masottina Prosecco was crisp and clean with notes of lemon, grapefruit, pear and rose. It was well structured and well balanced. An elegant wine that was a perfect complement to the black shell pasta with shrimp, clams and calamari prepared in a Prosecco base. Simply an outstanding pairing.
The La Farra Rive wine is fresh and fruity with notes of apple, pear and flower blossoms. This wine was full bodied and bold enough to pair with the main course, which was crispy suckling pig with spicy capers, honey and rapini.
The Villa Sandi Cartizze was fresh and dry and incredibly smooth. In a true “Grand Cru” style, it paired perfectly with the dessert of mixed berry crostata with fresh gelato.
The wines of Prosecco DOCG are fresh, vibrant, aromatic and elegant. The Proseccos from Conegliano Valdobbiadene are made with great attention and care. These are artisanal wines made with the heart and soul of small winemakers, producing wines in extreme conditions. So on this National Prosecco day, don’t just drink any old Prosecco. Elevate your Prosecco game and be sure to ask your local wine store or restaurant for Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG.