It’s only Spring and yet we are already looking forward to our Fall trip to Italy – as if time is not passing quickly enough! Venice is certainly on the itinerary for it was on our first gondola ride through the mazelike, small canals off the Grand Canal that our fondest Prosecco memory was made. After much negotiating on price, our gondolier settled us comfortably in his elaborately decorated prized possession. But something was missing – alas, we had nothing to sip as we enjoyed the sights! More negotiation ensued, lots of charades and suddenly he pulled to the side of a very dark canal, jumped out, handed us the “reins” and took off with our twenty euro note. Had we insulted him? Would he return? We were desperately trying not to let the gondola drift off! Less than five minutes later he returned with two glasses and a bottle of Prosecco – the most enjoyable we’ve ever had.
Prosecco is not just the name of this delightful sparkling wine, it is also the name of the grape varietal from which it is made. Additionally, there is also a town close to Trieste named Prosecco. The grape is grown in the Veneto just north of Venice and midway to the Dolomites in an area known as Colli Trevigiani. This area is very well suited to the growing requirements of this grape of fizz. The climate is temperate with warm summers and cold winters and the all important diurnal swings. The best Proseccos come from Conegliano Valdobbiadene. These are actually two separate towns and as of April 2010 they became Italy’s forty-first DOCG, an upgrade to the DOC status they had held for forty years. Of course, upgrades of that nature usually translate into upgrades in price as well – so much for our fun, simple Prosecco!
Prosecco is made in the Charmat method where a second fermentation takes place in pressurized tanks versus the bottle as is done in Champagne. The wine is then bottled. This process varies from one producer to another, some leave the juice in contact longer and thus it takes more time but they feel it results in a richer taste with more fruit flavor. Think of a nice, juicy, white peach essence. For the most part, Prosecco is a relatively simple, easy-going part of Venetian life – a café sipper that is the perfect match for people watching and recapping your day or planning your evening (or a gondola ride). However, there are some producers that make a quite serious version more similar to Champagne. The second fermentation occurs in the bottle using the Méthode Champenoise process. If you should see the name Cartizze on the label it is a certain indication of top quality Prosecco, with a price to match. As for us, when it comes to Prosecco, we are more the café sipping, gondola riding consumers. Enjoy the bubbles!