When you think of Prosecco, most often, you probably think of the inexpensive fizz that is poured at brunch, with a bottomless mimosa, or as an everyday drink . I admit, I was no big fan of Prosecco before I experienced the journey I’m going to share with you. Made in the bulk, or Charmat method, the bubbles tend to be large, the flavor is – to say the least- unique, and it tended to be a bit low brow. Or so I thought.
Enter #winestudio this year, when I was exposed to the changing face of Prosecco and the new DOCG: Prosecco Superiore. The Prosecco Superiore DOCG has elevated the art and style of Prosecco to be not only more competitive with other sparkling wines of the world, such as American sparkling wine and Champange, but also raised the standards of quality and taste within the category.
There are three DOCGs for Prosecco, Conegliano Valdobbiandene Superiore which encompasses 15 communes, Conegliano Valdobbiandene Superiore Rive, in which wines must be made from a very specific commune or vineyard, and Valdobbiandene Superiore di Cartizze, which is about 107 hectares. All of these DOCG areas are smaller, and technically a subset of the larger Prosecco DOC, which also includes the Prosecco DOC Treviso and Asolo Prosecco DOCG. Confused yet? Let’s just think of it as concentric circles, where the outer ring is Prosecco DOC, and the DOCGs are smaller, inner rings, where the DOCGs fit snuggly in the center side by side. This handy graphic above from the Prosecco folks explains it much better:
Located a short 50 kilometers from Venice, Conegliano Valdobbiandene is a steeply hilled area of 15 small commnues that was originally recognized as a DOC in 1969. When, as Italy does, the communues and productions area rules were refined and revised in 2009, the area was upgraded to a DOCG, recognizing the highest quality wines.
Having had the opportunity to taste through he portfolio of both Nino Franco, as well as the vast variety of several producers from Conegliano Valdobbiadene (more on that later), I am excited at the endless styles and improved quality this Italian sparkler has to offer.
These wines were provided by the winery, PR agency, and #winestudio in consideration for participation in the weekly online tastings at #winestudio. Some participants paid a fee to receive certain wines.
Before we get in to the deails of Nino Franco, let’s review what makes Prosecco Prosecco. By definition, is not Champagne. While the term Champagne is often used like Coke for soda, or Kleenex for tissues, it is in fact a proprietary name based on the region and a few additional factors. Prosecco is much the same. The most obvious difference is that Prosecco is from Italy, but it is also produced from a particular white grape – glera. Glera is a white grape that is thought to have originated in Slovenia. Until 2009, Glera was referred to as Prosecco in that region of Italy, making for a somewhat confusing mish mash in the production of the wine. Today, however, the Glera grape is used to make Prosecco wine. Nothing has actually changed, except for the semantics for clarity’s sake. With a neutral flavor an d a naturally high acidity, it’s a perfect choice for Prosecco. Prosecco, by law, must be at least 85% Glera. The additional 15% can be other varietals such as Verdiso, Bianchetta Trevigiana, Perera, Glera lunga, Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir.
With the majority of Prsoecco being produced outside of the DOCG, in an unmemorable, somewhat boring, and forgettable style, the wines within the DOCG allow producers to elevate the wines, experiemnt with some unique tools (like methode classico, or the Champagne method) – changing the style and quality of this lovely treat.
Turning our focus to the wines of Nino Franco, they have three offerings, from the workhorse, yet deliciously budget friendly Rustico Prosecco, Brut Superiore, the luxurious Primo Franco Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG, and the Grave di Stecca Brut. – all from the Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG which is a small pocket of steep vineyards inside the Prosecco DOC designation. Each one of these wines was unique, elegant, and purely expressive of the elevated quality of the DOCG.
The Rustico, 100% Glera, is from the steep hillside vineyards of Valdobbiadene. Made in the bulk method, the secondary fermentation occurs in tank, but they managed to capture the white flowers, crisp pear and ginger notes. A fun fizz, the under $15 retail makes this a great choice for brunch (and mimosas or Bellinis) and parties.
Next, the Brut Superiore is also 100% Glera from the hillside vineyards, The low 11% ABV is refreshing, and is slightly more refined than the Rustico. Fresh apple, bright citrus and a creamy finish make this a great choice for the start of a meal, but also richer fish dishes. Also a great choice at under $15.
Moving on to the Primo Franco, it’s even lower in ABV than the Rustico and Brut. A stunning 10.5%, the Primo Franco increases in intensity but holds true to the 100% Glera. With toasted notes of marzipan and tropical fruits, the hint at sweetness on the finish makes this a great pairing with cheeses or even fruity desserts. More expensive than the first two offerings, the $22 bottle stands alone and would be a fun way to test your friends’ bubbly knowledge!
Finally, the special Grave di Stecca Brut comes from a special block tucked away in an area that is a small plot on the alpine foothills, in a microclimate that is perfectly suited for sparkling wine. Also100% Glera (are you detecting a theme here in the DOCG?) the 12% ABV is well balanced with the most intense of the four wines, flowing with dried herbs, floral notes and a mineral rich finish.
These offerings from Nino Franco show you that 100% Glera can n fact be elegant, restrained, and refined, while showcasing the native grape of the Veneto in a delightful manner. Without the blending of other varietals, the Glera is able to show off, and the microclimates of the Valdobbiadene provides an ideal growing region to produce lean, zippy ,and low alcohol bubbles that are sure to charm any one’s wallet.
Next up, we will continue our meander through Valdobbiadene and Conegliano with several more produceres of DOCG Prosecco. Who says bubbles are just for special occasions?