Prosecco can be a great New Year’s Eve sparkler

December 29, 2017

After Friday's paper came out, I received several emails requesting information about Prosecco for the New Year. Although I reviewed many this year, I'm posting a few recommendations. You may do some of your own research starting with this well-written Snooth article: There is a plethora of sparkling wines produced worldwide. According to the most recent results, released Oct. 15, 2016, Champagne 339 mil bottles, Germany 360 mil, Italy 298 mil, Spain 224 mil. 2016 Total U.S. consumption of all sparklers 32 mil, Cali production 11 mil.

When searching for the best Prosecco, always look for the following on the labels: superiore, DOCG, Connegliano or Valdobbeadine; vintage and finally residual sugar, which is listed from driest to sweetest: Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry (or Sec/Seco), Demi-sec, and lastly, Doux (or Dulce). Most found locally are Brut or Extra Dry. If any of these descriptors are missing, often you aren't buying best of breed.

Prosecci labelled Asolo, Cartizze, or Rive are from much smaller specific vineyards. Cartizze reputably is the finest terroir. This is not to say that some labeled just DOC or from other regions aren't adequate or even wonderful but rather that, consistently, these are the best choices because the terroir, tradition and expertise of the winemakers are top-notch.

Prosecco was the name used for Italian sparkling wine made from Glera varietal grapes for many years. Another old soubriquet was Spumante. Some names I look for are: Collalto; Nino Franco Riva di San Floriano 2018, a creamy, off-dry sparkler with apple, peach, pear and lemon, and plenty of spritz and bright acidity supporting all; Mionetto di Cartizze 2016, ripe apple, pear and lemon nose with a long, green apple, persistent finish; and Bisol di Cartizze 2016, with 23 g/l of residual sugar, the pronounced fruit, hint of minerality and green apple acidity provide balance. You will pay up for these but nowhere near the prices for the best Cali sparklers or Champagne. When looking for Prosecci priced favorably, DOC Brut NV is one step down. Best in breed, from my perspective, is Mionetto $14. Try an Aperol cocktail. Fill a large 10-12-oz. wineglass with ice. Add three parts Prosecco, two parts Aperol (orange bitters), one part soda water, garnish with seedless orange slice. Also look for Nino Franco Rustica $5, Lunetta $14, Mionetto $16 and Bisol Jeio Brut NV $14.

I would be remiss if I didn't include a brief look at Spanish Cava. The least of these are left on lees nine months, Reservas 15 months and Grand Reservas 30 months. This "autolysis" adds fresh bread dough, white chocolate, and almond/marzipan flavors. Longer autolysis continues and drives more of these flavors.

They then undergo Methode Champenoise, secondary fermentation after bottling with the addition of a dosage of yeast, and sugar. Most Prosecco are made Charmat bulk process in refrigerated tanks. Considering all of the steps Cava takes, it is surprising they are such great value.

You can learn more here: In the under $15, look for Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut and Anna de Codorniu Brut. Under $10, Segura Viudas Brut Reserva. Segura Viudas Heredad Cava is upscale at $25 and a terrific value buy. Thirty months on lees provides toasted brioche, smoky apple aromas, full body and a very creamy mouthfeel.

On the palate apple, quince and some citrus with a long, clean, mineral-driven finish, 92 McD points. Be sure to read labels carefully.

Big-buck buyers who wish to see what all the fuss is about can ask their wine shop pal to find a bottle or two of Gramona Cava Enoteca 12 Anys Brut Nature 2001.

This spent 12 years on lees. It is ready to go and costs around $150. RP sort of dissed these and then awarded 94 points. I had a sip in N.J. and was very impressed. Yellow-golden color opens to caramel and toast aromas with herbal, balsamic and mineral nuance. Lovely perlage and bright acidity. 2002 Champagne with this pedigree and treatment would run $300.

Here's to you for a terrific, happy, healthy, successful, blessed New Year. Cheers!

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