Updated: Sep 8, 2020
Who doesn’t know Prosecco?! Bubbly, light & fresh…perfect for an aperitif & for mixed drinks. Easy to pronounce and affordable!
But few are aware that there is Prosecco (DOC) and there is Prosecco (DOCG). What’s the difference and why should you care?
Prosecco, back in the olden days, was a white wine that had a slight fizz due to late-ripening grapes that spontaneously refermented in the bottle during spring. This style was abandoned but is now being made once again and called “Prosecco col fondo” (Prosecco with deposit).
At the time, both the grape and the wine were referred to as Prosecco.
The popularity of Prosecco grew as did the demand for more and more bottles, and so did the industry that made it. The style of wine became more commercial with controlled fermentations inside pressure containing vats (Charmat tank method) that would give a good sparkle. The region expanded greatly outside the original area. In the plains, growing methods were mechanized, with the aim of cutting costs on a wine that most people didn’t (don’t?) seem to take seriously anyway.
But let’s go back to where it all started, to the magic hills (now UNESCO) of Valdobbiadene-Conegliano and Asolo, two now small areas compared to the enlarged and simpler Prosecco DOC regions.
The two original production areas were upgraded to DOCG status in 2009, and at the same time, the huge area around was given permission to make simply Prosecco DOC - a much blander sparkling which is commonly found on the market.
Around the same time, the main grape used to make Prosecco was re-named Glera (a local synonym) to avoid that anyone outside the northeastern corner of Italy could make a wine named Prosecco, hence anchoring the name to a region (albeit a very large one!)
Apart from the historic growing zones being much smaller (the ones today marked "DOCG") the morphology of the land is very hilly. And this, of course, makes a difference for the actual viticulture. Asolo Prosecco DOCG is a small string of pre-alp hills. It’s a tiny area with limited production.
Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG (or just Valdobbiadene Prosecco / Conegliano Prosecco) is larger, but still just a spot on the map. It’s an incredibly beautiful region with steep vineyards that are tended to entirely by hand.
Regardless of region, there are 3 official styles of sweetness levels to be found: Dry (which is semi-sweet), Extra dry (which tastes off-dry) and Brut (which tastes dry) – so look out for this to know what you’re getting. Several wineries are working on non-dosage (no added sugar) that are particularly interesting for food pairing…so we hope to see more of those in the future!
As to “cru” sites, Prosecco has just one called “Cartizze” which, funny enough, is made into a sweet style (the so-called Dry) and is almost entirely all sold in Milan where it is known and loved. Apart from that, you may find the additional geographic mention "Rive" (which refers to a specific hillside).
The Prosecco DOC region that is split between Veneto & Friuli Venezia Giulia, so basically the whole of northeastern Italy, is largely in the valley area and it’s possible to work it entirely mechanically, which reduces costs and quality (and of course the final price reflects it).
As always, we search out the small independent wine producers with the most difficult vineyards and who do everything by hand, making fine quality products. We'll feature a Valdobbiadene Prosecco Brut in the Italian Wine Club this fall.
Here's the video so you can get a feel of what it's like: