Like most wines, all prosecco is not made equally. Prosecco, a type of sparkling wine, is made with grapes from the Conegliano Valdobbiadene region in Veneto, Italy, primarily with the glera grape. Grapes in this region grow at different altitudes; the higher the altitude, the better the prosecco quality, says wine expert Vince Anter, founder and host of the "V is for Vino" show on Amazon Prime.
Sadly, we can't just jet-set to Veneto's vineyards every time we need a new bottle of prosecco. So how do we buy a good bottle of prosecco closer to home? We talked with Anter to find out.
A Brief Prosecco Explainer
Before buying a good bottle of prosecco, it's important to understand what prosecco actually is — and more specifically, what it isn't. Some think prosecco is just another version of Champagne, but the two are quite different. While true Champagne (from the Champagne region of France) has bready, yeasty, crème brûlée flavors, prosecco tastes fruitier, like green apples, pears or honeydew melons. Champagne bubbles are also finer, while prosecco bubbles are bigger. These key differences stem from each sparkling wine's production process.
"The big difference is how the bubbles are formed," Anter explains. "Prosecco is made in the Charmat method. All the fermentation is done in pressurized tanks and that's where the bubbles occur. In Champagne, bubbles occur in individual bottles."
This method variance brings about another important difference: price. To make Champagne, Anter says winemakers add yeast and sugar to each individual bottle before capping it to trap the byproducts of heat and CO2. (In still wines, these elements evaporate into the air.) With the Charmat method, they do the same thing but in big tanks versus individual bottles. "You can do hundreds or thousands of bottles at a time," Anter says.
Champagne's tedious production process correlates with a higher price point. "Champagne itself [from the Champagne region] starts at about $40 to $50, and you can spend way more than that," Anter says. "Prosecco taps out in the $50 to $75 range for the high end, and you can easily get a really good prosecco for $30."
Selecting a Good Bottle of Prosecco
You don't have to go to the slopes of Veneto, Italy, to determine which prosecco is best. Just look for the DOCG label, Anter says. It's an acronym for denominazione di origine controllata e garantita, which in English means controlled and guaranteed designation of origin.
"There's DOC prosecco and DOCG. DOC is made in the flatlands; these are the uninteresting, low-acidity grapes," he says. "DOCG is much higher quality. Most of it has to be picked by hand and grapes are grown at a higher altitude."
DOC and DOCG are certifications from the Italian government; they help buyers know what they're purchasing, and specify the production area, the method used for the wines and the quality of the wines. DOC (appellation d'origine contrôlée), which means controlled designation of origin isn't quite the same. You want to look for the "G" in DOCG. It's more stringent and basically a guarantee that the wine was evaluated and tasted by a government-licensed committee before it was bottled. Anter says to look for these certifications on the bottle's label or neck.
Anter's second trick for buying good wine? Skip the grocery store.
"I'm big on this for any wines: Go to your local wine shop," he says. "Grocery stores have to stock the wine in, say, 50 stores. When you do that, you essentially say this wine has to be mass produced — but wine isn't like something made out of a factory. When you bring up the yields, you diminish the quality."
Buying prosecco online is a good way to find a specific bottle, Anter says, but he still recommends shopping at your corner wine store because they often carry unique, small-batch prosecco bottles you won't find anywhere else. Two of Anter's favorite proseccos include the well-balanced Valdo Spumante 1926 and Sorelle Bronca, a prosecco known for its fresh, apple aroma.
How to Serve and Store Prosecco
For the optimal prosecco experience, chill the bottle in the refrigerator. "Fridge cold, which is actually too cold for white wines, is just right," Anter says. "Sparkling wines should be served out of a refrigerator or an ice bucket."
He also recommends white-wineglasses for the fullest flavor. "Flutes aren't the best for getting everything out of the wine," he says. "You lose the aromatics. You want more from the nose than the palate, so most people who seriously drink wine will use white-wineglasses."
And finally, it's best to consume prosecco right away. "It's not meant to age unless it's a really high-quality bottle," Anter says. "The more that's left in the bottle, the longer it can keep. A half to three-quarters could last a day. It won't go bad, but it goes flat. And absolutely preserve it in the refrigerator. This slows down the oxygenation process."
Originally Published: Dec 3, 2020