Italian Sparkling Wines
Champagne is a name known around the world, however Prosecco is hot on its heels. Believe it or not, Prosecco out sold champagne worldwide in 2018; and looks to do the same again in 2019! Prosecco’s growth has not gone unnoticed and as interest in the different, new, and unknown increases across the globe people are seeking out sparkling wines that are not one of the two biggies. Italy has many other bubblies to offer up, however many of them are not readily available outside of Europe; some cannot even be found outside of the borders of Italy herself! Here we’re going to break down some of the more popular sparklers to come out of Italy.
Prosecco comes from Northern Italy, mainly from the Veneto region. It is made from Glera grapes, until recently known only as Prosecco, but up to 15% of the blend may be made up of 7 other grape varietals. There is a DOC (controlled designation of origin) that limits the growth of Prosecco’s grapes to nine regions. There are two even stricter controlled designations of origin (DOCG) for the production of what are regarded as some of the best, and therefore most expensive Proseccos available.
Prosecco is either a Spumante, sparkling wine, or Frizzante, semi-sparkling wine; with Spumante being the most popular. Prosecco is produced in three “types” regarding their sweetness levels: Brut, Extra Dry, or Dry; and these designations are determined by the amount of residual sugars in the wine once bottled. Prosecco is meant to be drunk young, although the ability of good Prosecco to age well has been documented.
On the palate Prosecco is a simple wine, with intense aromas. Prosecco is said to taste crisp and aromatic, with flavors of pear, white peach, yellow apple, and apricot.
This sweet, sparkling wine is made from Moscato Bianco grapes, in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy. The DOCG (controlled designations of origin) zone designating the growth of grapes for Asti, to mostly Asti itself, however it does sightly overlap into some other provinces of Piedmont. These wines are low in alcohol and, unlike most other sparkling wines, they do not undergo a secondary fermentation. The primary fermentation takes place in sealed, pressurized tanks, and is halted early to give these wines their signature sweetness.
There is also an Asti wine called Moscato d’Asti, produced in the same region from the same grape, but it is a frizzante, a semi-sparkling wine. Asti is meant to be consumed young and although it is not vintage dated most bottles of Asti that you’ll find will be from the current vintage. It should be consumed young, and after two years the freshness starts to dissipate from the wine, and it’s floral and fruit notes become heavier and less appealing.
Asti is extremely light and floral, with floral aromas and peach flavors. There is enough acidity in the wines to balance the sweetness making them excellent sippers on hot sunny days.
Unlike most of the world’s sparkling wine Lambrusco is produced solely from red grapes, of the same name as the wine they make. Lambrusco is a grape that is native to Italy and this grape has a long history of making wines in Italy. There are eight DOC regions where Lambrusco can be grown and made, and these are all, again, located in Northern Italy. Lambrusco is a Frizzante, and not a sparkling wine, with a relatively small amount of fizz compared to its other Northern Italian brothers and sisters.
Lambrusco is made in the same way that Prosecco is. They both use the Charmat Process, where a second fermentation happens in a pressurized tank; opposed to in the bottle like with Champagne and the méthode champenoise.
Lambrusco is available from very sweet to bone dry, and has a very floral nose, high acidity and noted berry flavors of cherry and raspberries. Because of the wide variety of these wines it’s difficult to give many overall tasting notes. Other notable flavors found in Lambrusco are those of spices, strawberries, grapefruit and white peaches.
These are Italy’s top three sparkling wines and those that you’re most likely to be able to source from suppliers. These are all produced in the North of the country, in the foothill of the Alps and Dolomite mountains. Sparkling wine is produced in the lower, more southern regions of the country. Lastly, these rarely make it out of their own province, let alone across the ocean to the United States.