Pardon me for popping off, but I thought it might be fun to end this week with a bang ... specifically, the festive noise of a cork coming out of a bottle of sparkling wine.
We're not talking about Champagne today, though, but the lighter, simpler and frankly more casual sparkle of Prosecco ("Pro-seh-ko"), a delightful (and relatively inexpensive) Italian sparkler from the pretty Veneto hills around Conegliano, Pieve di Soligo and Valdobbiadene north of Venice.
Made primarily from the local Prosecco grape and an optional bit of Verdiso, the sparkling wine may add up to 25 percent Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay in the blend. Most Prosecco is fully sparkling (spumante), but some is frizzante (lightly sparkling), and a smaller amount of non-sparkling white wine is made.
These sparkling wines are not made by the labor-intensive Champagne process in which the bubbles come from fermentation in the individual bottle; rather, Prosecco was one of the first wine regions to develop the simpler Charmat or tank process, in which a large vessel of wine is carbonated in bulk before being bottled. Although this process is not highly regarded world-wide, it seems to work in Prosecco, where the wines - if not comparable to the potential depth and character of Champagne - are almost always crisp and enjoyable.
Nino Franco non-vintage "Rustico" Prosecco di Valdobbiadene ($11.99)
Clear, pale straw color, the wine pours up with a frothy mousse that falls back fast, leaving a prickly carbonation that's cleansing but a bit less bubbly than Champagne. Yeasty white fruit and a light fresh-milk scent reminiscent of ricotta cheese add aroma interest, and its flavor is clean and snappy, with tingly carbonation that works well to wash down food. U.S. importer: Vin DiVino Ltd., Chicago. (May 15, 2002)
FOOD MATCH: Prickly carbonation and crisp dry fruit make a surprising match with a "gourmet-style" Thai chicken pizza with spicy peanut sauce.
VALUE: Purists might downgrade Prosecco because it is not made by the traditional fermented-in-the-bottle process, but when you compare it to Champagne prices, it's hard to deny the value of a clean, fresh $12 sparkler with good balance and flavor interest.
WEB LINKS: The official consortium of Prosecco producers has a Website in Italian and English at
Click the link "The Land of Prosecco from Conegliano to Valdobbiadene" for the English-language pages.
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Friday, May 17, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.