Prosecco is an Italian wine — generally a dry sparkling wine — generally made from grape variety Glera, which previously also was known as Prosecco. The main area where Glera is grown and Prosecco is produced is the Veneto region of Italy, traditionally in an area near Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, in the hills north of Treviso.
Prosecco is known as the main ingredient of the Bellini cocktail and has more recently become popular as a less expensive substitute for Champagne.
Hillside in Valdobbiadene
The vineyards of Valdobbiadene.Up until the 1960s, Prosecco sparkling wine was generally sweetish and barely distinguishable from the Asti Spumante wine produced in Piedmont. Since then, production techniques have improved, leading to the high-quality dry wines produced today. According to a 2008 The New York Times report, Prosecco has sharply risen in popularity in markets outside Italy, with global sales growing by double-digit percentages since 1998, aided also by its comparatively low price. It was introduced into the mainstream US market in 2000 by Mionetto, now the largest importer of Prosecco, who also reported an "incredible growth trend" in 2008.
Prosecco is protected as a DOC within Italy, as Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene, Prosecco di Conegliano and Prosecco di Valdobbiadene. From 2009, it was promoted to DOCG status. To further protect the name, an association of traditional Prosecco growers is advocating a protected designation of origin status for Northern Italian Prosecco under European law.
Unlike Champagne, its main commercial competitor, Prosecco is produced using the Charmat method, in which the secondary fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks, making the wine less expensive to produce.
Approximately 150 million bottles of Italian Prosecco are produced annually. As of 2008, 60 percent of all Prosecco is made in the Conegliano and Valdobbiadene area. Production there amounted to €370 million in 2007. Beginning in the 2000s, Prosecco is also grown in countries such as Brazil, Romania, Argentina and Australia.
Prosecco is mainly produced as a sparkling wine in either the fully sparkling (spumante) or lightly sparkling (frizzante, gentile) varieties. Prosecco spumante, which has undergone a full secondary fermentation, is the more expensive variant. The sparkling variants may contain some Pinot bianco or Pinot grigio wine. Depending on their sweetness, Proseccos are labeled "brut" (up to 15 g of residual sugar), "extra dry" (12–20 g) or "dry" (20–35 g).
A still wine (calmo or tranquillo) is also made from Glera grapes – it amounts to only about five percent of production – but this wine is rarely exported.
Wines from the traditional Conegliano–Valdobbiadene production area are labeled as "Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene", "Prosecco di Conegliano" or "Prosecco di Valdobbiadene". Proseccos labeled with another, non-protected designation, such as "IGT-Veneto", are generally cheaper and of a more varied quality.
The hill of Cartizze is a 1,000-foot-high vineyard of 107 hectares (260 acres) of vines, owned by 140 growers. The Prosecco from its grapes, of which comparatively little is produced, is widely considered to be of the highest quality, or even as the "Grand Cru" of Prosecco. Accordingly, a hectare of Cartizze grape land is estimated to be worth in excess of one million US dollars.
According to a local legend, Cartizze grapes were traditionally harvested last, as the vines were situated on steep slopes and hard to reach, which made vintners discover that this extended ripening period improved the flavour. Nonetheless, in a blind tasting at the 2006 Vinitaly trade fair, Cartizze spumanti were ranked consistently behind "normal" Prosecco.
Cheap Prosecco frizzante is also sold in cans.In Italy, Prosecco is enjoyed as a wine for every occasion. Outside Italy, it is most often drunk as an aperitif, much like Champagne. Like other sparkling wines, Prosecco is served chilled. Unlike Champagne, Prosecco does not ferment in the bottle and grows stale with time; it should be drunk as young as possible and preferably before it is two years old.
Compared to sparkling wines from other areas of the world, Prosecco is low in alcohol, about 11 to 12 percent by volume. However this is quite typical for Italian sparkling white wines. The flavor of Prosecco has been described as intensely aromatic and crisp, bringing to mind yellow apple, pear, white peach and apricot. Unlike Champagne, appreciated for its rich taste and complex secondary aromas, most Prosecco variants have intense primary aromas and are meant to taste fresh, light and comparatively simple.
Most commonly Prosecco is served unmixed, but it also appears in several mixed drinks. It was the original main ingredient in the Bellini cocktail and in the Spritz cocktail, and it can also replace Champagne in other cocktails such as the Mimosa. Prosecco also features in the Italian mixed drink Sgroppino (with vodka and lemon sorbet).