For its fame, price, stature and ceremony, Champagne can be overbearing at times, overshadowing other worthy sparkling wines not just in France, e.g. various blanquettes, clairettes, crémants and mousseux, but also in Italy. Lo Stivale (“the boot”) being arguably the only country in the world where grapevine cultivation and wine production take place in each and every region, sparkling wine is produced across the entire Italia Settentrionale (northern Italy), e.g. Asti from Piemonte, Franciacorta from Lombardia, Trento from Trentino-Alto Adige, Lambrusco from Emilia-Romagna, and Prosecco from both Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia.
Curiously, the first Italian sparkling wines produced in the mid-19th century were made per Metodo Classico / Tradizionale (i.e. Méthode Classique / Traditionnelle; since 1994, the term Méthode Champenoise applied to only Champagne wines), but nowadays most Italian sparkling wines are made per Metodo Martinotti (i.e. Méthode Charmat), with the notable exception of Franciacorta, which insists on Metodo Classico (vide supra). The two methods differ from each other at various stages during the production process, but the defining difference lies in second fermentation, which takes place in bottle (Champenoise) as opposed to stainless steel tanks (Charmat).
The name Prosecco refers to three entities: first, the ancient village – now part of the city of Trieste – in Friuli-Venezia Giulia; second, the sparkling wine produced in both Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Veneto; third, a synonym for the white grape variety Glera. Prosecco per se can be made in four styles: Tranquillo (still), Spumante (fully sparkling), Frizzante (lightly sparkling, often sweeter and less alcoholic) and the rare and time-honoured Col Fondo (essentially a Frizzante with second fermentation in bottle, kick-started by additional grape must as opposed to dosage, i.e. sugar, hence more complex and flavourful).
Regardless of Prosecco styles, Glera must constitute at least 85 percent of the final blend, whereas the remainder can be a combination of Bianchetta Trevigiana, Chardonnay, Glera Lunga, Perera, Pinot Bianco / Grigio / Nero and Verdiso. Due to the harmonisation process of EU law, Prosecco and other Italian sparkling wines now share a very similar labelling regime with Champagne when it comes to sweetness level, based on grams of residual sugar per litre, e.g. Extra Brut (<6), Brut (6-12), Extra Dry (12-17) and Dry (17-32).
Owing to its generally attractive price tags, Prosecco has been gaining in popularity on the international market over the last two decades, but the dubious title of “poor man’s Champagne” somehow persists, unfairly so. If Valpolicella Ripasso and Amarone della Valpolicella are considered as stylistically different rather than qualitatively superior or inferior, why take a quasi-“caste system” view on sparkling wines? Champagne remains for celebrations and ceremonies, but Prosecco – and other Italian sparkling wines, for that matter – are perfectly fine for casual occasions. The wine world is much more than Grand Cru clarets and burgundies, Super Tuscans and Trockenbeerenauslese.
To be continued…
Sourced from steep hillside vineyards, manually harvested, gently pressed and fermented under temperature control, second fermentation in large tanks as per Charmat method, 17g/l of residual sugar. Vivid citrine with bright sunshine reflex, the invigorating nose offers lime, green apple and crushed rock. With abundant acidity, clear minerality and medium-fine mousse, the buoyant palate delivers lemon, pineapple and crushed shells. Medium-full bodied at 11.5 percent, the fruity entry continues through an energetic mid-palate, leading to a minerally finish.
Sourced from hillside vineyards, manually harvested, gently pressed and fermented under temperature control, second fermentation in large tanks as per Charmat method, 24g/l of residual sugar. Limpid citrine with clear aureolin reflex, the fragrant nose presents Asian pear, white peach and fresh rose. With generous acidity, clean minerality and medium-fine mousse, the vivacious palate delivers quince, pomelo and acacia. Medium-full bodied at 11.5percent, the floral entry persists through a suave mid-palate, leading to a harmonious finish.
The wines were tasted at Bene (www.benemacao.com), the Italian trattoria at Sheraton Grand Macao Hotel, Cotai, in the presence of Mr. Ben Bost (firstname.lastname@example.org), Beverage Manager of Sheraton Grand Macao Hotel and The St. Regis Macao. Bene recently launched the Food & Wine Mercato, a “deconstructed” and interactive wine dinner concept, where guests can enjoy culinary delights with fine wine while meeting producers and suppliers alike. Veneto was the featured region in the previous month.
Jacky I. F. Cheong is a legal professional and columnist. Having spent his formative years in Britain,
France and Germany, he regularly comments on wine, fine arts, classical music and opera.