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Prosecco labeling gets stringent redo

Prosecco labeling gets stringent redo

Italy’s sparkling Prosecco has experienced a bit of a transformation in recent years. This bubbly has been plagued by inconsistent quality — from the top of the pyramid, Cartizze, to celebrities jumping on board to promote everything from canned Prosecco made in Austria to low-end fizz. Italians, who historically take their wine production very seriously, took notice and worked to address the problem head on.

The heart of Prosecco production is the Veneto region bordering the towns of Valdobbiadene and Conegliano. Recently, a new labeling change has brought more stringent production requirements within the Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene zone. If the label has the name “Prosecco” it must adhere to specific production techniques and include only grapes grown in strictly controlled areas.

Italian wines are given levels of quality much like the French Appellation d’Origin Controlee. Beginning with the Vino da Tavola (basic table wine) to IGT, DOC and DOCG, each level has more stringent rules for growing and production. The change basically takes the areas previously given the lesser IGT designation a type of upgrade to DOC. To add to the confusion, it also technically renames the grape to its ancient name “glera” for producers outside of the named zones, effectively making “Prosecco” a place name and not a grape variety.

THE VALUES

  • NV Zonin Prosecco, Italy (about $15 retail)
  • NV Candoni Prosecco, Italy (about $15 retail)

THE SPLURGE

  • NV Santa Margherita Brut Prosecco, Italy (about $25 retail)
Budget bubbles? Choose Prosecco

Budget bubbles? Choose Prosecco

Prosecco is often compared to Champagne because of its dainty rich bubbles, but they are very different wines. The most noticeable difference is Prosecco’s price tag. But this Italian wine is much more than just inexpensive bubbles.

Like Champagne, Prosecco is named for its growing region. The Prosecco DOC (designated growth zone) is in northeast Italy and includes the provinces of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia. The wine is made primarily with the Prosecco grape (also known as Glera). The wines originated in the Valdobbiadene region in Veneto.

It is produced using a method known as Charmat (tank), which differs from Champagne. The Champagne or classic method entails fermentation in the bottle and long aging periods. Prosecco is produced in stainless-steel tanks, making it faster and more efficient to produce.

Most are produced dry in a brut style, but many think they are tasting a sweet wine. It’s the grape’s exceptionally fruity flavors of melon, pear, honeysuckle and green apple that make it seem sweet. As with other sparkling wines, there are styles based on the sweetness level or residual sugar: Brut has about ½ a gram of sugar per glass; extra dry has just over a half gram; and dry about a gram.

Recently Prosecco has become a staple at many parties and dinner tables. Compared to other wines, Prosecco is lower in alcohol content, usually around 11 percent, making it ideal for daytime parties and brunches. It matches well with lighter menus and is a value substitution for pricey Champagne in mixed drinks.

THE VALUES

  • NV Voveti Prosecco, Italy (about $15 retail)
  • NV La Gioiosa Valdobbiadene Prosecco, Italy (about $15 retail)
  • NV Zonin Prosecco, Italy (about $15 retail)

THE SPLURGES

  • NV Oriel 365 Prosecco, Italy (about $24 retail)
  • NV Santa Margherita Brut Prosecco, Italy (about $25 retail)

New rules protect Prosecco’s image

A lot has changed over the past few years for Italy’s Prosecco. The sparkling wine has been produced in a wide range of quality, from the top of the pyramid, Cartizze, to the canned Prosecco made in Austria and promoted by Paris Hilton.

This wobbly image of quality gained the attention of Italians, who historically take their wine production very seriously. That attention resulted in new regulations for the wine.

The heart of Prosecco production is the Veneto region, notably the area bordering the towns of Valdobbiadene and Conegliano. Beginning last year, a labeling change brought more stringent production requirements in the Prosecco di Congeliano e Valdobbiadine zone. If the label has the name “Prosecco,” it requires specific production techniques and only grapes grown in strictly controlled areas.

One would expect this to clear up any confusion; however, the new designation may have added to it.

Italian wines are given levels of quality much like the French Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC). Beginning with the Vino da Tavola (basic table wine), the levels progress to Vino a Indicazione Geografica (IGT), Vino a Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) and Vino a Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG). Each level adheres to more stringent rules for growing and production. The change for Prosecco basically upgrades the areas previously given the lesser IGT designation to DOC. To add to the confusion, it also technically renames the grape from Prosecco to its ancient name “glera” for producers outside of the named zones, effectively making “Prosecco” a place name and not a grape variety.

It’s a lot to take in, especially for those already struggling to comprehend Italian labeling. However, with these changes we will see more protection for quality producers who in the past dealt with lesser versions continually jeopardizing their reputation. As for consumers, let’s hope it resolves some of the confusion from the many styles and prices of our beloved Prosecco.

THE VALUES

  • NV Zonin Prosecco, Italy (about $15 retail)
  • NV Candoni Prosecco, Italy (about $15 retail)

THE SPLURGES

  • NV Santa Margherita Brut Prosecco, Italy (about $25 retail)
  • NV Oriel 365 Prosecco, Italy (about $26 retail)