Prosecco 101

Glera vineyards in Treviso, Italy. (Courtesy photo)

The first ever National Prosecco Week was June 11-17.

For those who missed the limited pomp and circumstance, I can fill in the highlights. An opportunity to attend a pairing luncheon at 54 Mint, south of Market, left me with a new awareness of this popular Italian sparking wine.

With many imposters trying to cash in on the popularity in the U.S. and northern European markets, Prosecco DOC (Prosecco Denominazione di Origine Controllata) was formed in 2009 to protect the origin and identity of true prosecco, mainly from Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Veneto region.

Prosecco is made in Northeast Italy, between Venice and the Dolomites. Unknown to most who enjoy this light bubbly, the prominent grape in prosecco is glera, a fairly neutral grape with Slovenian roots that, until 2009, was named prosecco. Once the prosecco DOC was established, it became confusing for the protected designation of origin and the main grape to have the same name. The resolution was to officially re-adopt the glera name at the time of formation. Under the DOC regulations, prosecco must consist of at least 85 percent glera with a smattering of other white varietals eligible for the remainder.

Of the 440 million bottles produced, the vast majority of prosecco is the popular sparkling style, but there are small amounts identified as semi-sparkling and still. Within Italy, prosecco is local; two-thirds is consumed in the North. However, 75 percent of prosecco is exported, primarily to the England, the United States and Germany. I was pleased that we chose to import the six sparklers that were paired with lunch.

Served as the antipasti course, a savory tart with fresh ricotta, dandelion, spigarello and local Crescenza cheese (Torta Rustica) and deep fried Lake Superior wild smelt with caper mayonnaise (Pescetti Fritti) were paired with two prosecco releases that are readily available locally: the Villa Sandi Il Fresco Prosecco DOC Treviso Brut from a third generation family producer and the Le Marca Prosecco DOC Extra Dry, a crisp sparkling wine that is among the best sellers in the lower forty-eight. Both offered a fresh apple-tinged palate cleaning between bites.

The primi course, a fava bean and pea-shoots salad with pecorino, black pepper and EV olive oil (Fave e Pecorino) was paired with the single-vineyard 2015 Fantinel One and Only Prosecco Milesimato Brut from the village of Tauriano. The fresh floral aromas were notable and a rich mouthfeel balanced the natural acidity of the salad.

For the second course, a handsome piece of local wild fish was served with fennel puree and baby carrots, paired with two extra dry sparkling wines: the Astoria Prosecco DOC Extra Dry Treviso, from estate hillside vineyards and the sweeter Ca’ di Rajo Prosecco DOC Treviso Extra Dry. With 17grams of sugar, I was concerned that the Ca’ di Rajo was too sweet, but it complemented the complex flavors.

For the dolci course, pannacotta with fresh berries was accompanied by the Mionetto Prestige Organic Prosecco DOC Extra Dry, made from 100 percent organically grown glera vines above the small town of Vazzola in the Treviso hills. The sheer aromas and flavors of green apples were delivered through a steely crispness that balanced the sweetness.

Italy’s largest held wine company and owners of the country’s largest glera vineyards, Zonin 1821 is one of the most popular prosecco releases in the country.

Through long-term ownership, Zonin can assure quality control at each aspect and delivers a consistently good sparkling wine at a reasonable price.

Last month, my friend Ginny Jaquith served a refreshing Aperol spritz cocktail at a brunch that included Brut prosecco, Aperol liqueur, club soda and lime. The food-friendly, natural freshness and its ease with becoming part of a blended cocktail is why prosecco has become so popular, especially among those under 40.

In addition to the blue striped seal across the top of the bottle, Prosecco DOC, along with the designation of origin, identification as being made in Italy and whether it is a spumante (sparkling) or frizzante (semi-sparkling) style is all identified on the label.

There is no need to settle for any cheap, knock-off sparkling wine calling itself prosecco, especially those in aluminum cans. Authentic prosecco, with the blue DOC label, created from the toil of small growers in northern Italy, is readily available at affordable prices.

Lyle W. Norton is a wine enthusiast and blogger in Santa Rosa who has written a wine column for 15 years. Visit his blog at or email him at

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