Everyone loves a glass of something bubbly for a special occasion. Or maybe just a Wednesday night. And prosecco is certainly a fizzy favourite, which doesn’t have to come with a hefty price tag. But did you know that you can’t just call any old fizz prosecco?
What is “prosecco”?
Prosecco is, basically, an Italian white wine made from Glera grapes. It comes in three main varieties: spumante (“sparkling”), frizzante (“semi-sparkling”) and tranquillo (“still”). Have fun saying those to yourself for a minute. It’s OK we’ll wait.
You’ll often see “Prosecco” appended with “DOC” on the label. This refers to “Denominazione di origine controllata” or the “Controlled Designation of Origin Status”. Granted in 2009, DOC states that in order to be termed Prosecco DOC, the wine must be produced in the Northern Italian provinces of Belluno, Gorizia, Padua, Pordenone, Trevisio, Udine, Venice and Vicenza. Any wine produced outside of these areas is not Prosecco DOC.
The regulations also state that Prosecco DOC must be minimum 10.5% (for semi-sparkling or still) and 11% (for sparkling).
So, now you know how to impress people at your next party with your knowledge of Italian wine regulations, here are some prosecco alternatives you might not have heard of, and we think are worth giving a try.
A Spanish sparkling wine from the region of Catalonia, Cava comes in both white or rose. The name means “cave” or “cellar” – referring to the way that the wine was aged during the early days of its production.
Nowadays, Cava is produced with “the Traditional Method”, the very same method used to produce a sparkling wine you might have heard of – Champagne. In this method, the wine becomes bubbly by allowing secondary fermentation to occur inside the bottle, making it taste drier and more yeasty. You can often find a bottle of premium Cava for a bit less than you’d pay for a premium Prosecco, but due to it’s similar production method, it is closer in flavour to Champagne.
The traditional blend of Macabeu, Xarello and Paralleda grapes used in Cava make a taste that is faintly floral, with a hint of citrus and acidity and notes of melon and pear.
Franciacorta is another Italian sparkler, but produced specifically in the Province of Brescia. It’s much younger than Prosecco, which has been in production for hundreds of years – the first bottle of Franciacorta was produced in 1961.
Much like Prosecco, grapes are grown in a very specific set of vineyards, within the boundaries of the territory of Franciacorta. It comes in both red and white varieties. Like Cava, Franciacorta is made using a different method than Prosecco, the “Traditional Method”.
Franciacorta is described as fresh, fine and with hints of bread (yes, bread) and citrus. It is similar in price to Prosecco but due to the method of production is drier and with a more pronounced fizzy taste.
Cremants are French sparkling wines made using the Traditional Method, but outside of the region of Champagne. As result, they are cheaper, but still have yeasty richness and other characteristics of Champagne.
The name means “creamy”, as the wines originally had lower carbon dioxide content than Champagne, giving them less of a fizzy feel. Nowadays they are fully-pressured. Cremants are dry, and best served as an aperitif or with light savoury food.
Sekt is German sparkling wine. 95% of Sekt is made using the “Charmat” method, which is the same method used to produce Prosecco, so you would expect a similar taste.
Usually sweeter and lower in alcohol content than other sparkling wines, Sekt can contain notes of apples, pears and white flowers. Alcohol level can go as low as 6%. These wines pair nicely with mild, soft cheese like brie (Is anyone else’s mouth watering?).
Unfortunately the best premium wines are often drunk locally rather than exported (we can’t really blame them!). Sekt is pretty popular in Germany, and in fact, the annual per capita consumption is 5 litres. So next time you’re visiting Germany maybe pick up a bottle or two, or twelve, to bring home and enjoy whenever you like.
One to watch out for – cheaper German sparkling wines made with CO2 injection must instead be called Schaumwein (meaning “foam wine”) or Perlwein (semi-sparkling).
All that being said, Prosecco remains a firm favourite due to it’s reasonable price tag and lighter and fruitier taste. It’s also really versatile – great as an aperitif or mixed in cocktails. But whether it’s Prosecco or one of it’s bubbly cousins that you favour, doesn’t all this just make you want to pop open a chilled bottle and relax? Go on, treat yourself.