Whether you enjoy the occasional glass of sparkling wine (or are a self-professed sparkling wino like us) we can pretty much guarantee that you’ve had a glass of Prosecco at some point. Prosecco has become so popular that last year producers even sparked concerns of a global shortage! 😱 So what is Prosecco exactly? What makes it different from Champagne? And why do people love it so much? Sit back – and while you’re at it pour yourself a glass of this sensational Italian sparkling wine – because we’re about to break down everything you need to know about Prosecco!
What Is Prosecco?
In its simplest form, Prosecco is a sparkling white wine produced primarily from the Glera grape in the Veneto region of Italy. But like any wine, it’s a whole lot more complex than that! 😉
How Is Prosecco Made?
Prosecco is produced in the Charmat method (sometimes called “Cuve Close”, “Metodo Italiano”, “Metodo Martinotti” or the “Tank Method”). This method is different from from the “Traditional Method” (or the “Méthode Champenoise”) that is used to produce Champagne. We’ve illustrated the steps of Prosecco production in this handy infographic below:
- Step 1: The grapes are harvested early to maintain high acid levels and are then sorted to ensure only the highest quality fruit is used to produce Prosecco.
- Step 2: The grapes are gently pressed to produce a clear juice.
- Step 3: This clear juice is fermented (usually in stainless steel tanks for a maximum of 8 – 10 days), resulting in a still (dry) base wine.
- Step 4: Once complete, the base wine is transferred to sealed and pressurized stainless steel tanks (called “autoclaves”) where a mixture of sugar and yeast is added to begin the second fermentation. Since these tanks are sealed and pressurized the CO² (carbon dioxide) produced during the fermentation (from the conversion of sugar to alcohol) cannot escape and remains trapped in the wine. Yay, baby bubbles!
- Step 5: Once the second fermentation is complete (about 10 more days), the wine is filtered to remove any lees (residual yeast) or sediment, and the “dosage” (a mixture of sugar and still wine) is added to bring the wine to its desired sweetness level.
- Step 6: From there the wine is bottled – still under the same amount of pressure as it was in the tank – using a special bottling machine.
- Step 7: The bottles run through a high-tech labeling machine, and voila!
The result? Deliciousness!
But beyond that – sparkling wines made in this Charmat method are produced in a much shorter amount of time (sometimes in as little as a few weeks) and at a much lower cost than those made in the traditional Champagne method. That helps to explain the $15/bottle price point.
But does that mean that one method is better than the other? Not necessarily. It does, however, make for two very different styles of wine. The Charmat method produces youthful wines that are fresh, fruity and vibrant – and meant to be enjoyed that way. Unlike Champagne, Prosecco doesn’t typically improve with age and should be enjoyed within 2 years of purchase. That being said, as we learned in Italy, a higher quality Prosecco Superiore (DOCG) can maintain its vibrancy for up to 7 years (more info on Prosecco Superiore below)!
Where Is Prosecco Made?
Prosecco is made in the foothills of the Veneto region of Northern Italy (just north of the city of Venice). Like Champagne in France, Prosecco can only be produced within a specific geographic border in this part of Italy. You can buy sparkling wines made the same way (using the Charmat method) all over the world, but they cannot be labelled “Prosecco”. The highest quality Prosecco comes from the Treviso province of Veneto, between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, on a convenient route dubbed “La Strada di Prosecco” (or, “The Prosecco Road”) that you can travel along to taste the best examples of the wine.
So let’s break it down a little further. There are two main classifications for Prosecco…
The Prosecco DOC, or “Denominazione di Origine Controllata,” is the broadest geographic area where Prosecco can be produced. If you’re scanning the shelves contemplating which bottle of Prosecco to pick up, you’ll probably notice that the majority of them say “Prosecco DOC.” DOC loosely translates to “Controlled Designation of Origin” and is an Italian quality assurance designation tha ensures that the bottle of wine in your hands is guaranteed to come from this area and was made following specific winemaking practices and standards.
Prosecco Superiore DOCG
As you probably guessed, Prosecco DOCG is a much smaller and exclusive geographic area where the highest quality Prosecco is produced. DOCG stands for “Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita” which loosely translates to “Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin”. This differs from DOC in that all wines labelled DOCG are guaranteed to be the highest quality example of the wine style as as they are tasted by a committee prior to bottling. DOCG wines also have a much more strict set of rules in place that must be followed when producing the wine. For example, all grapes must come exclusively from vineyards in this smaller geographic area, and they must all be harvested by hand. This ensures that Prosecco Superiore DOCG is of the highest quality. Yum!
What Does Prosecco Taste Like?
Prosecco is a light-bodied, vibrant, fresh, highly aromatic and crisp wine. It has a medium to high amount of acidity and large, frothy bubbles. Dominant flavours typically include apple, honeysuckle, peach, melon and pear. Secondary flavours can include cream, hazelnut and tropical fruits.
So is Prosecco sweet? Not typically. Many people mistake its fruity characteristics for sweetness.
There are 3 different sweetness levels:
- Brut: 0-12 grams of residual sugar per litre.
- Extra-Dry: 12-17 grams of residual sugar per litre.
- Dry: 17-32 grams of residual sugar per litre.
This can be confusing, because in North America we ask for a “dry wine” when looking for something that’s not sweet. This is the opposite in Prosecco’s case where a bottle labelled “Brut” will be the driest, “Dry” will be the sweetest, and “Extra Dry” will be somewhere in between. So if you prefer your bubbly to be “brut” you’re in luck, because that’s the most common style of Prosecco on the market.
What Foods Should I Pair Prosecco With?
Our favourite thing to pair with Prosecco is… a second glass!
But it’s also an extremely versatile wine to pair with food. The bubbles and medium to high acidity work as a great palate cleanser between bites, and make Prosecco a perfect pairing for a diverse charcuterie and cheese tray or other appetizers. If you have a slightly sweeter bottle of Prosecco pair it with a spicy Thai curry or noodle dish. Delicious!
How is Prosecco different from Champagne?
So, the TL;DR version of what we wrote above is that Prosecco differs from Champagne in the production method (Charmat vs. Traditional), the flavour profile (Champagne comes from a cooler climate which results in a less fruity and more mineral driven wine – the opposite of Prosecco), the price point (you’re roughly looking at $15 vs $50 a bottle), to food pairings… but we always have plenty of both Prosecco and Champagne in our fridge. Each type of wine is delicious in its own way and has more than earned its place as the top selling sparkling wine in the world.
So, if you’re in the mood for something light, fruity and uncomplicated grab a glass of Prosecco.
If you’re looking for something more complex and mineral driven crack open that bottle of Champagne.
And if you’re more of a visual person who’s tired of reading (hey, we know, this is a lot) check out this handy comparison chart we’ve put together:
Alright, I’ve read enough – Which Prosecco Should I Drink?
If you’re looking to pick up a bottle of Prosecco this weekend (or any other day that ends in… -day) here are a few of our favourites! Since we live in Toronto, Canada we are recommending wines available in our market. They are all large from producers however, so they should be widely available worldwide![one_half]
Nino Franco Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG
Hints of flowers, apple, pear and citrus on the palate. Flavorful and fresh. Fine and persistent bubbles. Very creamy. Well paired with pasta and risotto, fish and white meat dishes. Learn more.
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Santa Margherita Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG
This Prosecco boasts lemon zest, pear, white peach, apricot and toasty flavours. Terrific with seafood appetizers or salmon teriyaki. Learn more.
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Tenuta S. Anna Prosecco Superiore di Valdobbiadene DOCG
This Prosecco offers notes of pear, peach, honeydew melon, chamomile and spice. Crisp and fruity. Excellent apéritif. Learn more.
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Villa Sandi Prosecco Il Fresco DOC
Pale lemon with light mousse; aromas of apple, pear and a mountain flowers; dry and light in body with flavours of peach, lemon & lime, fresh apple and melon. Learn more.
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