Prosecco is an Italian sparkling white wine; generally a Dry or Extra Dry wine; normally made from Glera ("Prosecco") grapes.
Although the name is derived from that of the Italian village of Prosecco near Trieste, where the grape may have originated, DOC Prosecco is produced in the regions of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia, traditionally mainly around Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, in the hills north of Treviso.
The name is due to two early and brilliant marketing operations. At the beginning of the sixteenth century in Trieste, to give greater visibility to the main local product, the "Ribolla", it was stated that this wine was the natural heir of the famous wine of antiquity, the "Pucino", celebrated by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis historia and beloved for its medicinal qualities by Livia, the wife of Emperor Augustus.
The need to distinguish the "Ribolla" of Trieste from other wines of the same name, produced in Gorizia and at lower cost in Istria, lead, at the end of the century, to a name change and, above all, to a precise geographic characterization. This was suggested by the identification of the place of production in antiquity, the "castellum nobile vinum Pucinum", as the Castle of Prosecco (Trieste), near the homonymous village.
The first known mention of the name change is attributed to the English gentleman Fynes Moryson, who, visiting the north of Italy in 1593, notes: "Histria is devided into Forum Julii, and Histria properly so called … Here growes the wine Pucinum, now called Prosecho, much celebrated by Pliny"; and places Prosecco among the famous wines of Italy: "These are the most famous Wines of Italy. La lagrima di Christo, (the teare of Christ) and like wines neere Cinqueterre in Liguria: La vernaza, and the white Muskadine, especially that of Montefiaschoni in Toscany: Cecubum and Falernum in the Kingdome of Naples, and Prosecho in Histria".
In 1754, the word "Prosecco" appears for the first time in the book "Il roccolo Ditirambo", written by Aureliano Acanti: ‘And now I would like to wet my mouth with that Prosecco with its apple bouquet’.
Up until the 1960s, Prosecco sparkling wine was generally rather sweet and barely distinguishable from the Asti wine produced in Piedmont. Since then, production techniques have improved, leading to the high-quality dry wines produced today. According to a 2008 New York Times report, Prosecco has risen sharply 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 U.S. market in 2000 by Mionetto, now the largest importer of Prosecco, who also reported an "incredible growth trend" in 2008.
Until the 2008 vintage Prosecco was protected as a DOC within Italy, as Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene, Prosecco di Conegliano and Prosecco di Valdobbiadene. From 2009, this has been promoted to DOCG status. Further to protect the name, an association of traditional Prosecco growers is advocating a protected designation of origin status for Northern Italian Prosecco under European law. Prosecco is, according to an order of the Italian Minister of Agriculture dated 17 July 2009 since 1 January 2010 not the name of a grape variety any more (now to be called Glera), but exclusively a geographical indication. This was confirmed by EG-Regulation Nr. 1166/2009 of 30 November 2009.
Unlike Champagne, its main commercial competitor, Prosecco usually is produced using the Charmat method, in which the secondary fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks, making the wine less expensive to produce. The rules for the DOCG Prosecco Valdobbiadene also allow the use of the Metodo Classico: secondary fermentation in the bottle.
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. Since the 2000s, Glera (Prosecco) grapes also are cultivated and wine from the grapes is produced in other countries including Brazil, Romania, Argentina, and Australia.
In the region of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene there are more than 150 producers and they form together the Consortium for the Protection of Prosecco from Conegliano and Valdobbiadene (Consorzio per la Tutela del Prosecco di Conegliano e Valdobbiadene).
Prosecco is produced mainly 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, in accordance with the EU Sweetness of wine Regulations for Terms used to indicate sweetness of sparkling wine, Proseccos are labelled "Brut" (up to 12 grams per litre of residual sugar), "Extra Dry" (12–17 g/l) or "Dry" (17–32 g/l).
A still wine (calmo or tranquillo) also is 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", "Prosecco di Valdobbiadene", or "Prosecco DOC" from Friuli. 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 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 traditionally were 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.
In Italy, Prosecco is enjoyed as a wine for every occasion. Outside Italy, it is most often drunk as an apéritif, much as Champagne is. As with other sparkling wines, Prosecco is served chilled.
Unlike Champagne, Prosecco does not ferment in the bottle, and it grows stale with time. It should be drunk as young as possible, preferably within three years of its vintage, although high-quality Prosecco may be aged for up to seven years.
Compared to other sparkling wines, Prosecco is low in alcohol, about 11 to 12 percent by volume. 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. With vodka and lemon sorbet, Prosecco is also an ingredient of the Italian mixed drink Sgroppino.
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