Prosecco DOC is produced in nine provinces spanning the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions. Prosecco Superiore DOCG comes in two varieties: Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG, which can only be made in the Treviso province of Veneto on the hills between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene (north of Treviso), and the smaller Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG, produced near the town of Asolo.
In Trieste at the beginning of the sixteenth century, the local wine "Ribolla" was promoted as the recreation of the Pucinian[clarification needed] wine of antiquity, celebrated by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History and praised 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, led, at the end of the century, to a change in name. Following the supposed place of production in antiquity, the wine was referred to as "castellum nobile vinum Pucinum", after the castle near the village of Prosecco.
The first known mention of the name "Prosecco" is attributed to the Englishman Fynes Moryson, although he used the word "Prosecho". Moryson, 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". He places Prosecco among the famous wines of Italy: "These are the most famous Wines of Italy. La lagrima di Christo and like wines neere Cinqueterre in Liguria: La vernazza, and the white Muskadine, especially that of Montefiaschoni in Tuscany: Cecubum and Falernum in the Kingdom of Naples, and Prosecho in Histria".
The method of vinification, the true distinguishing feature of the original Prosecco, spread first in Gorizia, then – through Venice – in Dalmatia, Vicenza and Treviso. 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. Consumption also ballooned in the UK, which became, in the mid-2010s, the biggest export market for Prosecco, consuming fully one quarter of all Italian production.
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. 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. Since 1 January 2010, Prosecco is, according to an order of the Italian Minister of Agriculture of 17 July 2009, 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-Martinotti 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[update], 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 are also 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 DOC can be Spumante sparkling wine, Frizzante (semi-sparkling) and Tranquillo (still) depending on the perlage.[clarification needed] Prosecco DOC Spumante is the most famous and popular variety and has a fine long-lasting perlage. Prosecco DOC Frizzante has a light, less lingering perlage. Prosecco DOC Tranquillo is a still wine, with no perlage. 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). The still wine (tranquillo) amounts to only about five percent of production, but this wine is rarely exported. Proseccos labeled with another, non-protected designation, such as "IGT-Veneto", are generally cheaper and of a more varied quality.
Prosecco Superiore DOCG
Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG can only be made in the Treviso province of Veneto on the hills between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. Producers from Valdobbiadene have recently tended to skip the mention of Conegliano on their front label, calling their wine Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore. There is also the smaller Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG, produced near the town of Asolo. While the bulk of Prosecco DOC is grown on low-lying plains in an extended area covering 20,000 hectares, Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG is grown exclusively on hillside vineyards in a far smaller growing area totaling 6,586 hectares. The steepness of the hills of Valdobbiadene means that everything, from pruning to picking, is principally done by hand. The manual aspect, especially for the harvest, further increases quality.
Superiore di Cartizze
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 was estimated to be worth in excess of one million US dollars in 2008, and its value was estimated to have increased to 1.5–2 million euros in 2015, the most for a vineyard in Italy. The sparkling wine produced from Cartizze has recently been named by producers as Superiore di Cartizze, without mentioning Prosecco on the front label to further emphasize its territory.
According to a local legend, Cartizze grapes traditionally were harvested last, as the vines were situated on steep slopes and hard to reach, which led to vintners discovering 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.
While Cartizze is at the top of the Prosecco Superiore DOCG quality pyramid, the Consorzio recently introduced their official Rive delimitations, i.e. subzones that are named after the area where the grapes originate, highlighting the different microclimates and distinct terroirs found throughout the growing zone.
Some winemakers are reviving the customary Prosecco Col Fondo, refermented in the bottle but not disgorged, as the wines are left on their lees. This yeasty residue leaves a fine sediment on the bottom (fondo in Italian) that imparts more complexity and flavor. These wines are currently labeled Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG, without the added term Superiore—which is reserved for wines that have at least 3.5 bars of pressure in the unopened bottle, while the Col Fondo generally have 2.5 bars.
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.
The view that Prosecco cannot be aged has been challenged by other experts. A tasting in 2013 of wines produced between 1983 and 2013 demonstrated the longevity of the wines from one of their top producers.
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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- Consorzio di Tutela del Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG (in Italian) (in English) (in German) (in Chinese)
- Consorzio di Tutela del Prosecco DOC (in Italian) (in English) (in German) (in Russian)