Prosecco wine, the Italian sparkling excellence


Prosecco wine, the Italian sparkling excellence.

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rosecco is undoubtedly one of the most famous and appreciated Italian wines in the world. The main reasons for such a reputation are its great pleasantness and versatility: characteristics that, during the last few years, have led to a huge increase in sales. Let’s find out its history, how it’s produced and a lot of interesting facts. Let’s visit the enchanting lands where its vines grow.


Prosecco wine: the Italian sparkling excellence.

The history of Prosecco.

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s often happens when dealing with Italian food and wine specialties, some scholars trace the origins of Prosecco back to the period of ancient Rome. Although well-founded, it’s important to point out that this is just a hypothesis (*1), according to which the ancestor of this wine could be the ‘Pucino’, Pliny the Elder, 'Naturalis historia' (img-01) described by Pliny the Elder (*2) in his famous treatise, the ‘Naturalis historia’. At the time of the Empire, the ‘vinum Pucinum’ was regarded as a true delicacy, much appreciated by the most eminent personalities (*3), who attributed to it medicinal qualities, to the point of considering it an elixir of long life.
An interesting proof of the connection between Pucino and Prosecco can be found in the travel notes of an English gentleman, Fynes Moryson. In 1593 he wrote:

Livia Drusilla, wife of Emperor Augustus (img-02)

“Histria is devided into Forum Julii, and Histria, properly so called (…). Here growes the wine Pucinum, now called Prosecho, much celebrated by Pliny”

This quote is very precious also because suggests the region in which, presumably, Prosecco started to be produced. An area where is located a place of fundamental importance in the history of this wine: the ‘Castle of Prosecco’ (*4). It’s probably no coincidence that the fortress, dating back to the Thirteenth Century, is identified by many experts as the ancient ‘castellum nobile vino Pucinum’.

Notes:
*1: Some scholars speculate that ‘Pucino‘ may be the ancestor of ‘Ribolla Gialla’ instead of Prosecco;
*2: Pliny the Elder was a military commander, writer, naturalist philosopher and Roman governor in the 1st century AD;
*3: Including Livia Drusilla, wife of Emperor Augustus;
*4: The castle is also known as ‘Torre di Prosecco’ or ‘Castello di Moncolano’ (more information). It’s located not far from the ‘Prosecco’ district of the Municipality of Trieste.

Prosecco, the origins of the name.

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he first written evidence of the use of the word ‘Prosecco’ dates back to 1593 and can be found in the travel notebook already mentioned in the previous paragraph. Its author, Fynes Moryson, clearly mentions the ‘Prosecho’, a wine originating from the north-eastern part of the Italian peninsula. Reading these notes, it’s surprising to find out that, at the time, Prosecco was already very famous: Moryson equates it to other excellent products such as, for example, Vernaccia (‘vernazza’), Moscato (‘muscadine’) and Lacryma Christi (‘lagrima di Christo’).

Cover page of ‘Il Roccolo Ditirambo’, 1754 (img-05) Another precious evidence can be found in a poem published in Venice in 1754: the ‘Roccolo Ditirambo’, written by the scholar Aureliano Acanti (*1). Here follows a very interesting quote from this work:

“Ed or ora immolarmi voglio il becco con quel melaromatico Prosecco di Monteberico quello perfetto Prosecco eletto ci dà lo splendido nostro canonico.”

““… and now I would like so much to wet my mouth with the Prosecco from Monteberico, enjoying its apple bouquet. It’s the perfect Prosecco, a true example for all the others.”

In addition to the explicit reference to ‘Prosecco’, this passage is intriguing because it indicates that in the XVIII century this wine was produced with great success on the Berici Hills (“perfetto Prosecco eletto”), near the city of Vicenza.

Note:
*1: Anagram of the original name ‘Valeriano Acanti’.


Prosecco grapes.

Prosecco: the production areas.

The Prosecco Regions.

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owadays, eighty percent of the Prosecco that is drunk in Italy and the rest of the world is produced in Veneto, the remaining twenty percent in Friuli-Venezia Giulia (*1): these are the historical territories of this wine. They are also the territories in which it’s mandatory to grow its grapes (*2) according to the official DOC procedural guideline (*3).
Over time, two particular zones stood out from the others for the excellent quality of their Prosecco, not by chance awarded with the DOCG label: we’re speaking about the beautiful hills of Asolo and Conegliano-Valdobbiadene, both in the province of Treviso.

Notes:
*1: ‘Glera’, the Prosecco grape variety, was originally grown in Friuli-Venezia Giulia Region.
*2: According to a new law, sparkling Prosecco DOC (‘spumante’ and ‘frizzante’) can now be produced in some places outside Veneto and Fiuli-Venezia Giulia. The use of grapes from these two Regions is still mandatory.
*3: This is the largest DOC in Italy.

The Prosecco DOCG.

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he DOC and DOCG labels have been adopted by the Italian State to certify the quality of the best wines produced in its territory (*1) and to protect them from imitations (*2). On 17 July 2009 the DOC ‘Prosecco’ and two DOCG, ‘Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG’ (*3) and ‘Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG’ were established. This represented the culmination of a process lasted many years, officializing the international success of this wine.


Conegliano-Valdobbiadene DOCG (img-14) Conegliano-Valdobbiadene DOCG (img-14)

Conegliano-Valdobbiadene DOCG

Prosecco from Conegliano-Valdobbiadene is one of the best expressions of this wine. Such a great quality is due to the territory in which its grapes grow: a real jewel, located between the city and Venice and the Dolomites Mountains. Thanks to the hard work of man, over the centuries the fascinating hills characterizing the landscape of this zone have been made suitable for the cultivation of vine (*4). A huge effort which has borne fruit, since in this area ‘Glera’ has found its ideal habitat (*5).


Asolo DOCG. Asolo DOCG.

Asolo DOCG

The hills of Asolo and Montello, not far from the Dolomites, are the home of ‘Prosecco di Asolo DOCG’. These reliefs have an altitude ranging from 100 to 450 meters. The production area of the grapes includes 19 Municipalities, located around the town of Asolo. The soil of this zone provides a good amount of minerals to the plants of Glera (*5), its slope allows excess water to flow. The result is an elegant and delicate wine, characterized by a good balance between sugars and acids, a soft taste and a floral and fruity scent.



Notes:
*1: With the adoption of specific procedural guidelines (‘disciplinari di produzione’).
*2: More information about DOC and DOCG labels can be found in this article: ‘The Italian DOC and DOCG wines’.
*3: Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Prosecco got the DOC label in 1969.
*4: Thanks to the use of ‘terraces’ (‘terrazzamenti’).
*5: The vine giving life to Prosecco grapes.

Prosecco landscapes.

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he vines from which Prosecco DOCG is born are often part of landscapes so unique to deserve international recognition: that’s why the recent inclusion of the hills of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene in the UNESCO World Heritage List is not surprising. In this regard, it’s fair to point out that the Asolo hills are just as exquisite.
Here follow some images that, more than a thousand words, can illustrate the heartbreaking beauty of these places:





Prosecco vines.

Prosecco grape.

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he Prosecco procedural guideline (‘disciplinare’) (*2) requires that this wine has to be produced with at least 85% of the white grape variety known as ‘Glera’. For the remaining 15% it’s possible to use the fruit of other vines, carefully chosen considering the taste and olfactory result to be obtained:
Perera: increases aroma and fragrance;
Verdisio: increases sapidity;
Bianchetta Trevigiana: helps to refine the alcoholic tenor;
Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and White Pinot Noir are used in the production of ‘spumante’ (these too in a percentage not exceeding 15%).

Notes:
*1: The name ‘Prosecco’ has been (erroneously) used for a long time to indicate both the grape variety and wine.
*2: The DOC and DOCG procedural guidelines.


Prosecco vine (img-21)

How Prosecco sparkling wine is made.

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oth the types of sparkling Prosecco, ‘frizzante’ and ‘spumante’, are produced using the ‘Martinotti’ method, also known as ‘Charmat’.
Here follows a short list of the steps:


Prosecco grapes.

According to the procedural guideline, Prosecco must be produced with at least 85% of ‘Glera’ grapes.


The ‘pressing’.

The grapes are softly pressed (the ‘pressing’), obtaining the ‘must’ (‘mosto’): a liquid substance dense and turbid.


Wine decanting.

The must is put to rest in special tanks. Its heaviest parts decant.


The ‘fermentation’.

The clear part is decanted in steel cylinders at a controlled temperature. The addition of selected yeasts triggers the ‘fermentation’: sugar is transformed into alcohol and carbon dioxide, the must becomes wine.


The ‘cuvée’.

This ‘base wine’ is enriched with other batches of base wines differing from each other for specific organoleptic characteristics, for the origin and for the time of the harvest. The ‘cuvée’ is born.


The ‘refermentation’.

The wine is decanted in large pressure chambers, the ‘autoclaves’. Yeasts and sugar are added, triggering a second fermentation, the ‘refermentation’.


The wine becomes ‘sparkling’.

During the refermentation, the yeasts metabolize the sugar, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide. The latter, retained by the pressure, stays ‘imprisoned’ in the wine, making it ‘sparkling’.


Ready for bottling.

The procedure can last from a minimum of 30 days up to 90. After this period, the sparkling wine is ready for bottling. Forty more days will be necessary before selling it.


The types of Prosecco.

Prosecco is sold in three different types:

Prosecco ‘tranquillo’ (‘quiet’).
It’s the ‘historic’ prosecco, since it was the first to be sold, before the invention of the Martinotti (or Charmat) sparkling method. The term ‘quiet’ (‘tranquillo’), indicates the lack of bubbles.
Color: Straw yelllow;
Aromas: fruity (apple, pear, almond) and floral (acacia flowers);
Minimum alcoholic strength: 10.5% vol.
Serving temperature: 8°/10° C

Prosecco ‘frizzante’ (‘lightly sparkling’).
Lightly sparkling Prosecco. This type of Prosecco is produced in autoclave (Martinotti / Charmat method), using an ‘overpressure’ lower than that used for sparkling wine. This leads to a smaller presence of carbon dioxide in the wine (‘less bubbles’) and therefore in a not very persistent perlage.
Color: Straw yellow, sometimes enriched with greenish reflections;
Aromas: fruity (apple, peach, pear) and floral (white spring flowers);
Minimum alcoholic strength: 9% vol.
Serving temperature: 8°/10° C

Prosecco ‘spumante’ (‘sparkling’).
Sparkling Prosecco. It’s undoubtedly the type most known worldwide. This sparkling wine is traditionally produced in autoclave, using the Martinotti / Charmat method.
Color: Straw yellow;
Minimum alcoholic strength: 11% vol.

According to the residual quantity of sugar, sparkling prosecco is::
BRUT:
Sugar residue: 0 / 12 g/l
Aromas: hints of citrus with vegetal notes. Bread crust.
Serving temperature: 6°/8° C
EXTRA DRY
Sugar residue: 12 / 17 g/l
Aromas: fruity (apple, pear, citrus) and floral.
Serving temperature: 6°/8° C
DRY
Sugar residue: 17 / 32 g/l
Aromas: fruity (green apple, peach)
Serving temperature: 6° C

The great success of Prosecco.

The great success of Prosecco.

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he great international success of Prosecco began in the 1990s. Between 2013 and 2014 the number of its bottles sold on the world market surpassed those of Champagne. Not surprisingly, the most appreciated type is ‘spumante’.
Nowadays this wine is at the very center of a huge business involving hundreds of wineries and thousands of farmers, scattered in nine provinces between Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia.
In addition to Italy, the reference markets for Prosecco are the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany. In this respect, it’s interesting to find out that the nation with the largest increase in sales is France.
The success of this wine should be largely attributed to its incredible quality-price ratio, something that makes very difficult to beat its achievements.

Rive and Cartizze, the ‘best of the best’.

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f the Prosecco produced in the hills of Asolo and Conegliano-Valdobbiadene can be considered the best of this type of wine, there are two particular selections of the same wine that, in a way, are the ‘best of the best’. We are talking about ‘Rive’ and ‘Cartizze Superiore’.

‘Rive’:
The word ‘rive’ indicates the steepest slopes of the hills of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene: inaccessible places, where working is a heroic undertaking. Why then struggle so much to cultivate them? The answer is simple: these lands are the ideal habitat for ‘glera’. The particular nature of the soil and the precious benefits provided by the perfect altitude and exposure, help this vine to produce excellent grapes, from which an inimitable wine arises (*1). Please remember that ‘Rive’ can only be sparkling wines.

‘Cartizze’:
There is no doubt that ‘Prosecco Superiore di Cartizze’ is a very special wine. Its grapes are born in an extremely small area: just over 100 hectares near the Municipality of Valdobbiadene. Difficult lands, located on the steepest slopes of the hills of Santo Stefano, Saccol and San Pietro di Barbozza, made unique by a microclimate particularly suited to the cultivation of ‘glera’ and a very special soil that, in the distant past, was part of the seabed. These factors give life to a great sparkling wine, whose quality is appreciated by many admirers all over the world.

Note:
*1: Prosecco, to be called ‘Rive’, must comply with many more regulations than a ‘normal’ Prosecco Superiore. Regulations about, for example, the grape harvest, which must be performed by hand, the production quantities and the indication of the place of origin.


Conegliano-Valdobbiadene lanscape.

Prosecco and Champagne.

Lady riding a  champagne cork (img-03)

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lthough many think that the Italian Prosecco and the French Champagne compete with each other, this cannot be true, since they are completely different wines, each with its characteristics. Champagne, for example, is often more complex than Prosecco, while the latter finds its greatest virtue right in its (relative) simplicity.
It’s also important to remember that the French wine is usually more expensive: this is mainly due to the more elaborate production process and to the years generally necessary for its complete maturation. This leads to moderate consumption, making it the wine for great occasions. Prosecco instead is ready in a much shorter time and is more suitable for frequent tasting, alone or as the main ingredient of a delicious aperitif.

And now I would like to whet my mouth ...

The hills of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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n July 2019 the 21 states that make up the Unesco Committee unanimously decided to recognize the area between the Italian municipalities of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene as World Heritage Site. It’s a territory of 97 square kilometers, in which culture and landscapes form a deep connection. A real treasure, strongly characterized by the presence of endless rows of vines that, like a precious diadem, coronate the steep slopes of the local hills.
Not surprisingly, one of the most renowned wines in the world is born right from these rows: the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG.

The Prosecco wine route.

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he ‘Prosecco wine route’ (‘Strada del Prosecco’), the oldest Italian wine route, was instituted in 1966 and developed over time: today it’s 120 kilometers long. It consists of different itineraries crossing the hilly area around the small towns of Valdobbiadene and Conegliano, offering extremely suggestive views. Enchanted landscapes, where the world of wine meets history and culture. The local vineyards are embellished by ancient hermitages, medieval villages, villas and castles. Even taste has its share, thanks to restaurants where it’s possible to savor the most typical specialties.

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The first Italian Wine School.

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robably not everyone knows that the town of Conegliano is home to the Istituto Cerletti, the first Italian wine school, founded in 1876. The ‘Cerletti’ has great importance in the history of Prosecco since the ‘Martinotti’ (or ‘Charmat’) method for the production of sparkling wine was invented here.

Music for Prosecco.

A short selection of baroque music to accompany the reading of this article:

Note: join Spotify and listen to the full songs for free.

‘Terraces’ for the Prosecco Superiore DOCG.

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onegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG owes much of its great quality to the morphology of the territory in which its grapes grow: a hilly area, often characterized by very steep slopes that, while offering well-exposed and drained soils, are very difficult to cultivate. To remedy this problem, at least partially, over the centuries the locals have modified these slopes using a particular type of terracing, known as ‘ciglione’, which stands out for the use of grassy ground instead of the classic retaining stone walls. Needless to say, this choice, in addition to making cultivation a little easier (*1), has contributed to the creation of a breathtaking landscape, unique in the world.

Note:
*1: Cultivation that often remains so difficult to be known as ‘heroic’, considering the huge effort required of the farmers.

Prosecco in the ‘Spritz’.

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rosecco is a very versatile wine. No wonder it’s used to prepare many types of cocktails, including the famous ‘Spritz’, whose ingredients are:
Prosecco wine;
Aperol / Campari;
Soda / seltz;

Prosecco and the ‘Cité des Civilizations du Vin’.

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n 2016 the Consorzio di Tutela del Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG became a partner of one of the most famous cultural institutions dedicated to the world of wine: the ‘Cité des Civilizations du Vin’ in Bordeaux.

Cartizze: the origins of the name.

Cartizze: the origins of the name.

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t’s difficult to know with certainty the origins of the name ‘Cartizze’, there are many hypotheses: according to the most likely, it could derive from ‘gardizze’, the term used by the people of Valdobbiadene to indicate the drying racks for grapes. Another hypothesis suggests that the name could derive from that of a flower, the ‘cardo’ (‘thistle flower’).

Prosecco from Piemonte region.

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omething interesting to keep in mind: despite speaking of Prosecco from Piemonte (*1) may seem to contradict the strict rules of the Prosecco DOC and DOCG guidelines (*2), since the production areas can only be in Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia (*3), it should be noted that the same guidelines admit some exceptions. These ‘special locations’ are those where the production of this wine is part of a well-consolidated tradition. Places like the Piemonte. However, it’s important to emphasize that the grapes used must necessarily come from the two regions just mentioned.

Notes:
*1: Piedmont.
*2: ‘Disciplinari di Produzione’.
*3: Two Italian regions as well.

Imitation attempts.

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s it happens to the most famous food and wine products in the world, over time also Prosecco has suffered several imitation attempts. The European regulations have recently prevented some of them: for example, in the case of the Croatian ‘Prošek’, whose name had to be changed in 2013, despite being a completely different type of wine.
Outside Europe these regulations, at least for the moment, have no effect: that’s why it’s possible the great success of ‘Espumante Garibaldi Prosecco’ in Brazil and of ‘Vintage Pucino Prosecco’ in Australia.

Prosecco and the environment.

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ince 2011, the Consorzio di Tutela del Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG has followed the Wine Protocol (‘Protocollo vinicolo’): it’s a set of rules inspired to environmental sustainability. The purpose is to choose over time forms of agriculture increasingly less invasive, for example by avoiding the use of dangerous molecules.

The Prosecco DOCG Consortia.

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his article was born thanks to the precious collaboration of both the Prosecco DOCG Consortia. Here follows a list of the respective contacts:

Consorzio Tutela del Vino Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG - Official Logo (img-13)

Consorzio Tutela del Vino Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG
Official website: www.prosecco.it
Mail: info@prosecco.it
Tel.: +39 0438 83028

Consorzio Vini Asolo Montello - Official Logo (img-20)

Consorzio Vini Asolo Montello
Official website: www.asolomontello.it
Mail: info@asolomontello.it
Tel.: +39 331 5730216




The images bearing the logo ‘webfoodculture’ are copyrighted.

The following images are public domain:

img-01 (*) – Pliny the Elder, ‘Naturalis historia’, Venice, 1469 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-Art} {PD-US}
img-02 (**) – Livia Drusilla, Fould Collection, image owner Marie-Lan Nguyen (Wikipedia Link) {PD-Art} {PD-US}
img-03 (*) – Grape-Shot, Lordprice Collection, 1915 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-Art} {PD-US}
img-04 (*) – Typus Orbis Terrarum, by Ortelius Abraham, 1587 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-Art} {PD-US}

The following images are made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported:

img-05 (**) – Cover page of ‘Il Roccolo Ditirambo’, 1754, image owner Sinf1226 (Wikipedia Link)
img-06 (**) – Istituto ‘Cerletti’, Wine School in Conegliano, facade, image owner Polarstar (Wikipedia Link)

The following images are published courtesy of the Consorzio Tutela del Vino Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco:

Click here to expand the list.

img-07 – The Prosecco wine route;
img-08 – ‘Cité des Civilisations du Vin’, Bordeaux;
img-09 – Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG – Landscapes 01;
img-10 – Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG – Landscapes 02;
img-11 – Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG – Landscapes 03;
img-12 – Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG – Landscapes 04;
img-13 – Consorzio Tutela del Vino Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG – Official Logo;
img-14 – Conegliano Valdobbiadene landscape;

The following images are published courtesy of the Consorzio Vini Asolo Montello:

Click here to expand the list.

img-15 – Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG – Landscapes 01;
img-16 – Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG – Landscapes 02;
img-17 – Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG – Landscapes 03;
img-18 – Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG – Landscapes 04;
img-19 – Glass of Prosecco;
img-20 – Consorzio Vini Asolo Montello – Official Logo;
img-21 – Prosecco vine;

(*) The copyright of this image has expired.
(**) Image released in public domain by its author.