From the Veneto region in northern Italy and once a seasonal summer selection, prosecco has become a popular year-round sparkling wine of choice for many consumers. It is readily available, reasonably priced, very food friendly and approachable to most palates.
Even as its appeal expanded and recognition increased, it came as a bit of a surprise that Wine Enthusiast magazine recently named the Nino Franco NV Rustico Prosecco Superiore ($18) as its top overall wine of 2019. It excels in the characteristics I just mentioned, but with the added depth and complexity, it earned it a 94-point rating. Such a high distinction for an under-$20 sparkling wine is rare.
The best extra dry prosecco is sourced from vineyards surrounding the towns of Valdobbiadene and Conegliano, below the Dolomites near Veneto. The region provides the cooler climate for the glera grape (synonymous with prosecco) to thrive. In 2010, the Conegliano Valdobbiadene area acquired a Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Origin designation to protect and sustain the qualities of this tiny area that produce the best of the best.
While the DOCG designation applies to all Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore production, there are sub-designations such as the small DOCG Cartizze micro-area and the 43- steep hillside DOCG Rive sites, each expressing the local terroir. The DOCG Sui Lieviti designates the prosecco within the region that is fermented and aged sur lie, a process that incorporates the dead yeast and is produced in the Brut Nature style with less residual sugar.
In addition to protecting the identity of the local terroir, the DOCG designation has resulted in the development of a viticultural protocol that sets guidelines toward the elimination of chemical pest and disease control while promoting non-evasive farming and sustainable vinification through the use of reclaimed water and recyclable products.
Another distinction of prosecco from other sparkling wines is the way it is made. While most sparklers are produced by the traditional Champagne method that triggers the second fermentation in the bottle, prosecco is made in the Charmat method that induces the secondary fermentation in large, airtight stainless steel tanks to capture the CO2 that creates the perlage (bubbles).
I recently tasted some high-end releases from Mionetto, which has produced accessible, quality prosecco since Francesco Mionetto first planted vines in 1887.
Mionetto’s wide range of releases appeals to a broad U.S. market; they get ample shelf space in both grocery stores and wine shops. Our focus for this tasting would be their Luxury Series prosecco releases from within the Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG.
The most opulent prosecco of Conegliano Valdobbiadene originates from vineyards in the small micro-area called Superiore di Cartizze, slightly over 250 acres with the steepest hills, the best soils and ideal seasonal weather. The Mionetto Luxury Cartizze DOCG ($40) is golden in color with a noticeable creamy mouthfeel. The inviting aroma and flavors of stone fruit and citrus nicely set up the nutty overtones on the finish. For Mother’s Day, it paired beautifully with take-out roasted chicken, goat cheese croquettes, farro salad and a lemon bar from the Barndiva restaurant in Healdsburg.
From the finest vineyards in Valdobbiadene, the exceedingly effervescent Mionetto Luxury Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG ($19) is lighter in color than the Cartizze, but expresses similar stone fruit flavors and creamy mouthfeel.
A Prestige Collection release, Mionetto Prosecco DOC Bio Extra Dry ($14)’s grapes are sourced from biodynamically farmed vineyards in the region. At first, it paired flawlessly with Red Hawk cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, later it nicely accompanied my take-out sushi and tempura from Haku Sushi in Santa Rosa. In this pairing, “extra dry” was the key.
Another very dry release, the Mionetto Luxury Cuvee 130th Anniversary Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Millesimato Brut Nature, celebrating the years since Francesco’s first plantings, is a limited release with no added residual sugar for those who like their sparklers extremely dry.
Besides Mionetto, numerous wineries in the Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG, including Nino Franco and La Marca, are producing Prosecco Superiore. When searching, look for the golden border on the consortium’s label near the cap of the bottle that assures the quality of the grape, sustainable practices in the vineyard and winery and critical taste testing before release. With Prosecco Superiore, the best of the best is affordable and easily accessed.
Guest columnist Lyle W. Norton is a wine enthusiast and blogger in Santa Rosa who has written a wine column for 20 years. Visit his blog at www.lifebylyle.com or email email@example.com.