With sales more than tripling over the past two years, Prosecco is a drop worth adding to your wine list, writes Christine Salins.
What’s not to love about Prosecco? It’s easy drinking yet sophisticated; food-friendly but also the perfect aperitif. It’s a refreshing pick-me-up and a celebration drink; a zippy Italian sparkling wine loved around the world.
In Australia, too, it’s on a roll. According to retail chain Liquorland, Prosecco sales in Australia have more than tripled over the past two years – that’s around 10 times the growth rate of Champagne. Speculating on the reasons for its success, it seems that wine drinkers are looking for a light, dry sparkling wine with lower alcohol, and Prosecco fits the bill perfectly.
Driven partly by the region’s large Italian population and partly by its geographic suitability, north-east Victoria is leading the way in the production of Prosecco in Australia. With a high concentration of the country’s Prosecco producers, it even has a Prosecco Road for cellar door visitors to explore.
Two north-east Victorian producers, Dal Zotto and Brown Brothers, pioneered the production of Prosecco in Australia in the late 1990s and have since carved out extensive markets abroad. Others have followed suit, with names like Tempus Two, Chrismont, Coriole, Di Lusso, Gapsted and Terra Felix among those in Australia with Prosecco in their portfolios.
Prosecco is a late ripening white wine variety that originated in the Veneto region of Italy. With a relatively neutral flavour, it is occasionally used to make still wines, but is generally used to make low alcohol wines that are either frizzante (semi sparkling) or spumante (fully sparkling).
Unlike Champagne and high quality sparkling wines, Prosecco is not made in the Mthode Traditionelle – that is, it doesn’t undergo a secondary fermentation in the bottle, nor is it aged extensively on lees. Instead, it is fermented in the tank and bottled early, with low atmospheric pressure and a light fizz.
This preserves its fresh fruit notes, making it appealing both as an aperitif and with food, especially with light seafood dishes.
The use of the name Prosecco by Australian producers has ruffled the feathers of Italian producers. The European Union asked Australia to stop using the name, but the Winemakers' Federation of Australia refused to comply on the grounds that Prosecco is the name of a grape, not a geographical indication.
The Italians contend that while the grape used to make Prosecco is indeed officially known as glera, the name Prosecco has come to refer to the area in north-eastern Italy where it originates. The DOC, or designated production zone, lies west of a tiny place called Conegliano in sub-alpine Treviso. The DOC name is Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene.
Leading examples from Italy include Zonin, Tenuta C Bolani, Valdo Marca Oro, Torresella and the pinnacle of them all, Bellussi Prosecco di Valdobbiadene.
A relatively new Italian producer and hopefully soon to be seen in Australia is FIOL, an extra dry Prosecco made by a group of friends who are passionate about Prosecco and want to take it to the world. With super cool labelling, FIOL takes the name of a Venetian slang word for “cool guy” and features a striking black and white graphic representation of the vineyard poles.
In contrast, Zonin has a long history, having been produced by the same family since 1821. This dry fresh wine is being sold as the perfect accessory for summer, with an array of cocktail suggestions. Spritz cocktails are the quintessential Italian drink and the craze translates easily to an Australian setting.
Spritz cocktail suggestions from Zonin
Sorrento Sparkle: Combine Limoncello and Cointreau in a shaker with ice. Top with Prosecco and garnish with lemon.
Bellini: Pour peach puree into a chilled flute, add Prosecco and serve straight up without ice. For an interesting twist, swap the peach puree for passionfruit juice.
The Rossini: Pour strawberry puree into a chilled flute, add Prosecco and serve straight up without ice. Garnish with diced strawberries or a whole strawberry if you wish. With its festive red colour, it’s the perfect seasonal thirst-quencher.
Some Australian producers to seek out
- Alpha Box & Dice Zaptung Prosecco: A delicate aroma, lemon and apple notes, and the quirkiest label you’re likely to ever see.
- Terra Felix Prosecco: Fresh and exuberant with lemon zest and tropical fruit notes.
- Primo Estate NV Primo Secco: Made from a blend of white grapes, this light, crisp sparkling wine is Joe Grilli’s worthy tribute to the wines of the Veneto.