Prosecco — a wine, a grape (now called Glera in the EU) and a village — is undoubtedly one of Italy’s more famous contributions to the world. The wine has been produced for centuries in one form or another but it was in the late ’90s that global demand kicked in and they have never looked back. At one time — up until the 1960s, roughly — it was quite sweet but over the years it has evolved to the slightly off-dry style (and fully dry in some examples) we know today.
If you think calling it one of Italy’s most famous contributions to the world is a bit of a stretch, consider that last year they sold roughly 600 million bottles; that’s a lot of bubbles. Unlike Champagne, which undergoes its secondary fermentation in the bottle, Prosecco’s second fermentation is done in a large tank, making it considerably cheaper to produce.
There are numerous distinctions for Prosecco, but the two predominant ones are DOC and DOCG. The majority of the DOC wines are produced in the rolling plains and lower slopes of the Veneto, while the better DOCG wines, generally speaking, are found in the striking terraced vineyards in and around the two towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene.
I prefer the drier styles and I find the DOCG versions are often worth spending a few extra dollars on. They pair nicely with Parma ham, olives and other delicious salty snacks. Here are a few of my favourites.
Bellenda Levis DOC Prosecco -$26
As you can see by the great Bellenda photo from their website, these guys don’t take themselves too seriously, always a welcome stance in the wine business. Their Proseccos are treated seriously, however, and they are top notch in every way. The Bellenda Levis hails from the upper hills of Treviso sub-region, a classic style with lots of apple and pear notes backed by minerals and great acidity. For those looking to try a very different expression of Prosecco, they produce a bottle-fermented wine, Metodo Classico ($34), that puts a nice spin on the conventional style.
Adami Bosco di Gica Prosecco DOCG — $31
Produced in the Valdobbiadene DOCG, this is Prosecco at its best, a lovely crisp, dry style that pops with minerality, stone fruits and a nice lively mousse. This is a family-run winery that has been producing Prosecco from these steep, terraced vineyards for over 90 years. It costs about twice as much as a lot of Prosecco on the market; it’s also twice as good as most of those.
Ca’ dei Zago 2018 Valdobbiadene DOCG Prosecco — $27
Here is another Prosecco anomaly in that it is bottle-fermented, much like Champagne and other traditional-method sparkling wines. This family-run property has been at it since 1924 and the wine is made from organically grown grapes from their vineyards in Valdobbiadene. It is vintage dated as well (not typical), but despite the style it still tastes like Prosecco albeit with an extra degree of richness attributed to the secondary fermentation in bottle. It has a lovely creamy pear core, a style that could be consumed on its own or with a bowl of pasta with shellfish, for example.
Canella Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG — $23
Canella has long been one of the best value premium Proseccos in the market, a family-run winery that began in 1947. It is classic in style — bright and lively, ever so slightly off-dry, and perfectly balanced. This one is perfect to pop pre-dinner alongside a plate of prosciutto and Parmesan cheese. They also produce a bottled version of the Bellini, a delicious cocktail created at Harry’s Bar in Venice (a blend of Prosecco and peach puree), as well as a Mimosa (blood orange juice and Prosecco). All are delicious.
Masottina DOC Prosecco — $19
Masottina is based in the stunning town of Conegliano and represents excellent value for a Prosecco of this calibre. It veers towards the drier style with lots of stone fruit concentration and a nice crackling mousse. It was awarded 96 points by Steven Spurrier in Decanter Magazine’s World Wine Awards, quite an endorsement for any wine that sells for under $20.
Nino Franco Rustico Valdobbiadene DOCG — $26
Nino Franco feels like an old friend at this point, one of the first to elevate the quality of Prosecco since its inception in 1919. Today, the dynamic and always charming Primo Franco runs the estate with care and compassion and it shows in the wine; lovely balance, elegant and above all, delicious. It’s a classic style, bright and fresh with notes of white peaches and a subtle floral undertone.
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Geoff last is a longtime Calgary wine merchant, writer and broadcaster and a regular contributor to City Palate Magazine and other publications. He instructs on food and wine at the Cookbook Company Cooks and was awarded a fellowship to the Symposium of Professional Wine Writers based in Napa Valley.