Prosecco is a sparkling wine from Italy that has been made since the 1800s. Its name comes from the Italian word for “sparkling” and it can be found all over the world today. This post will tell you everything you need to know about Prosecco, including how to make it, how it tastes, what foods pair well with Prosecco and more!
WHAT IS PROSECCO?
The term prosecco describes the sparkling white wines of Veneto, northeast Italy. Conegliano Valdobbiadene is the original area for prosecco production and it’s still the most famous one today.
The Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia also produces a grape variety called Prosecco, which is grown in the Colli Orientali del Friuli DOCG sub-region, but this wine can’t be labelled as true prosecco.
Proseccos from these two areas are probably what you think about when you hear the word “prosecco” but there are actually several other regions that produce their own version of simple, affordable bubbly (you can read more about this in my post here).
HOW IS PROSECCO MADE?
1. From grape
Prosecco begins as the white grape variety Glera (or Prosecco in Friuli) and it’s grown along the north east Italian coast. The first step is to harvest the grapes, which are at their best when they have a high level of acidity (which you can read about here). After being harvested, these grapes are sorted by hand, destemmed and only then crushed.
Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with very little SO2 added for preservation – I’ve seen fermentation happen somewhere between 12-17 degrees Celsius but I’m not sure if this range has any significance.
At some point during fermentation a small percentage of the must is pressed off and even more SO2 is added to stabilize it, this process is called disgorging. Disgorging leaves behind a clear liquid because there are no longer any solids in the tank, this fermented grape juice is what will become prosecco.
Some producers then blend their newly created wine with some older prosecco that has already been aged in bottle for 8-10 months before release, while others prefer to use only fresh disgorged wine due to its superior quality (I was told that these two methods produce a very different end result).
Whatever the case may be once bottled the wine needs at least 6 months to mature before being sold but you can usually find young (and very cheap) prosecco on the shelves.
4. Final product
The final product can have a total alcohol of 11% and the sweetness is usually very low, standing at around 2-4 gr/l for dry styles and 5 or 6 gr/l in sweet styles. Traditional (and most common) brands are made using a “traditional method”, which means that the secondary fermentation isn’t stopped with a specific amount of sugar but by cold stabilisation.
In this process carbon dioxide is carefully removed from the wine to ensure that no additional sugar remains in contact with the yeast cells, which will then enter into dormancy once all the remaining sugars have been fermented – this stops any further fermentation from taking place and preserves bubbles.
HISTORY OF PROSECCO
While the creation of prosecco isn’t as famous (or infamous) as some other wines, it is not completely free from controversy. All over Europe people have been producing sparkling wine for years using different grapes but Veneto was one of the last regions in Italy to start making it, this was prompted by a law introduced in 1863 which outlawed fortified wines (like Asti or Vin Santo) blending with fresh juice.
This meant that vintners had to find another way to make their now inferior product stand out and so they turned towards creating bubbles – enough time had passed since Champagne’s success story that inventors were becoming more confident about what could be done once air was added.
By 1872 these methods were perfected, and many wineries were producing their own version of the drink, but in 1936 a major scandal erupted in which the president of a well know local winery Alfredo Mancinelli was accused of starting his home-made sparkling wine with sugar and flavorings instead of grapes!
WHAT FLAVORS CAN YOU EXPECT FROM PROSECCO?
Fresh and fruity, that’s how I would describe a typical “prosecco-like” wine. If you’re used to the wide variety of grape varieties used to make sparkling wines in other countries, then you’ll be surprised by how little comes through from these white grapes in Veneto.
Proseccos are usually made without skin contact (which normally helps extract flavor) so expect flavors like apple, pear or fresh cut grass in most examples. On rare occasions you’ll find some good examples with more tropical notes but overall, this is a clean and refreshing style of bubbly which works well as an aperitif or in cocktails!
Due to its low alcohol level (by comparison to Champagne anyway) you can drink quite a bit of prosecco without getting woozy.
WHAT BRANDS OF PROSECCO SHOULD I LOOK OUT FOR?
The most important producers in the region are Valdobbiadene produces DOCG wines, while Conegliano-Valdobbiadene PDO also has many excellent producers.
The brand of prosecco that you’re particularly interested in will depend on taste (and price) but here are some of my favourites: Bellavista – one of the best dry versions of prosecco.
Fanta di Prosecco – a zero dosage version with very fresh flavours and real bubbles! Moscato d’Asti Spumante – still has the fruity flavours typical to proseccos but is delicious tasting dessert wine too!
WHAT’S NEXT FOR PROSECCO?
Generally speaking, I think that prosecco’ time to shine has arrived. With prices still much lower than Champagne it’s now very possible to enjoy a glass or two without worrying about breaking the bank – this is great because unlike other forms of fizz it doesn’t need to be saved for special occasions.
Prosecco also works incredibly well as an ingredient, used in many cocktails so if you’re looking for something different to try, I’d definitely recommend giving it a go!
HOW CAN I LEARN MORE ABOUT PROSECCO?
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of prosecco, then this book will be an interesting read. If you want to get into the details then this is a good place to start, but if you just like reading about wine then take a look at this article for some examples of different styles and flavors.
This Is How You Drink Prosecco (and other sparkling wines) from Jamie Goode is my favorite resource on pairing fizz with food although there are many others available if you’re after something specific.
An Introduction to Sparkling Wine by James Tidmarsh provides a fantastic overview on all things sparkling, so if you want to know more about the history of champagne or other forms of fizz then I’d recommend this.
For those who enjoy looking at pictures check out this book for some great examples of prosecco and other fizzy wines but please drink responsibly!
HOW TO DRINK AND SERVE IT?
When you’re out and about it is usually a good idea to stick with whatever the local specialties are. This isn’t to say that you can’t ask for other things, but if the restaurant or bar in question doesn’t stock prosecco then it’s unlikely, they’ll know what to do with it!
Proseccos are best served chilled (about 5-8 degrees C), and some people prefer slightly warmer temps than this. Try both ways and see what you like. Sparkling wine should always be poured into a glass (rather than being kept in an open bottle) as keeping wine too long on its lees often results in less flavorful wines.
Don’t be afraid to try it in cocktails either as this gives you a chance to fully explore the different flavors within the wine. Prosecco is perfect for a dry spritz (with some bitters!) and works well with fresh ingredients like herbs, fruit and vegetables. Hop on over to my Prosecco Cocktails page for some great ideas!
If you’re a prosecco fan, consider supporting the producers whose wines you like with their crowdfunding campaign (pre-order fizz!) – this is a great way to keep up to date with new releases.
WHAT FOODS PAIR WELL WITH PROSECCO?
Try to think of this wine’s flavor profile when you’re choosing food – a fresh, fruity prosecco will work well with lighter ingredients and rich foods (especially those containing egg yolks or butter).
The acidity in the wine complements the oils in some ingredients so try things like oysters, Parma ham or poached egg for example. This is a good article on pairing fizz with food but there are many others out there too!
THE PROS AND CONS OF DRINKING PROSECCO VS OTHER ALCOHOLIC DRINKS:
This is a tricky question to answer, but I’ll try to cover the main points.
There are so many reasons why this wine is popular not least of which because it’s delicious as an aperitif or with light meals and snacks. Prosecco has gained popularity over the past few decades due in part to its versatility – there are endless cocktails that can be made using this fizz as well as savory dishes to compliment it.
Furthermore, it’s extremely low alcohol content makes this wine almost calorie-free when you compare it to other drinks! If you’re watching your weight, then give prosecco a go!
Such a delicate wine in terms of flavor means that it’s best drunk either chilled or on the warm side. This isn’t to say it shouldn’t be served at cellar temperature (10-12 degrees C) as this is how prosecco tastes when you first open the bottle. When this wine is served too cold then many people fail to appreciate its subtle taste and there are some producers who believe that serving fizz too cold can actually damage your sense of smell and taste!
So really, whatever temperature you prefer will do – just don’t drink it any cooler than 8-10 degrees C… unless you’re drinking sparkling rose which should be kept even warmer!
If there is one thing, I could change about prosecco it would be the fact that this wine is often mislabeled. It’s highly unfortunate that a cheap Cava (a Spanish sparkling wine) can be sold as prosecco when it tastes pretty different to what most people are used to.
If you’re looking for quality, then consider spending more money and always ask your bar tender (you could also speak directly with any sommelier who will gladly advise you on which producer to choose).
Not everyone likes the flavor of dry wines especially those who prefer sweeter varieties of wine. Prosecco is also often more expensive than other types of fizz, but this should not put you off completely as there are many affordable options available!
HOW TO USE PROSECCO IN COOKING RECIPES
If you’re not sure how to use prosecco in cooking, then I’ve got some great suggestions here.
Other popular drinks made from the Glera grape are Lambrusco and Asti which can be used as alternatives if you like your food and drink to have a bit more kick… although this is very easy to rectify by adding a few extra slices of lemon!
If you happen to live in an area where fizz isn’t widely available then, Prosecco’s popularity has also meant that there are many recipes out there for homemade fizz (try these delicious grapefruit mojitos). You might even choose to make your own wine using concentrates or kits sold at stores such as Sainsbury’s, M&S and Home Bargains.
Note: You should never mix prosecco with any other alcoholic drink as it will negatively affect the taste of this wine. Furthermore, this is why you shouldn’t keep your fizz in a freezer – freezing can change the flavor profile and even alter the color. If you have some fizz that’s been in your fridge for too long, then leave it out at room temperature for a couple of hours prior to opening to restore its original taste!
WHERE TO BUY THE BEST DEALS ON PROSECCO
Buy prosecco from a reputable retailer who sells it at a reasonable price. Many supermarkets sell this wine, but the quality is often questionable as they buy in bulk solely for the purpose of making profit, so do be wary! If you wish to guarantee that your food and drink are fresh, then try buying from smaller independent shops such as Waitrose (also offering an online delivery service) and The Co-op.
If you’re worried about how much money you might spend on fizz, then check out these good value sparkling wines – there’s something for every budget!
If you want to try something a bit different… then I suggest you check out these great prosecco cocktails. The combination of chilled fizz and fresh fruits can prove very tempting – especially on hot summer day!
Prosecco is most commonly used in cocktails, particularly those which contain fruit such as a Bellini. This classic cocktail was made popular by Harry’s Bar in Venice and its simple recipe involves mixing prosecco with peach purée or nectar… although you can use many different fruits.
With winter soon upon us then why not try a hot toddy instead? Made with prosecco and lemon juice this drink will warm you up without getting you too drunk!
There are also some non-alcoholic sparkling juices on offer if that’s more your style… for example, Fever Tree produce several varieties of sparkling apple juice. I’ve tried their Elderflower flavor and it tastes just like an alcoholic cocktail without any of the alcohol content.
A number of different cocktails are featured in The Cocktail Bible as well as a useful directory for which festive tipples you can create with different types of fizz.
It’s also worth keeping an eye out for cookery books which contain recipes for prosecco-based drinks – some of the best include
Most people will have tried chilled fruit fool or mousse made from this wine but do be aware that both frozen yogurts and sorbets may also contain it!
Prosecco goes really well with all fruits so here are a few ideas to help you along…
1. Apple Melba Purée
- 2 Braeburn apples (or similar variety), peeled, cored and diced
- 1 small punnet strawberries, washed and halved
- 3 tablespoons caster sugar (for the apple purée) plus extra to sprinkle over the top of your dessert (if you wish)
Preheat your oven to 190 degrees C/375 degrees F/Gas Mark
Line a baking tray with parchment paper or grease it lightly with oil for easy clean up!
Place the apples in a bowl and drizzle over half of the lemon juice followed by 1 tablespoon of water then sprinkle over a teaspoon of cinnamon before mixing well… repeat this process again if necessary until you have obtained soft tender chunks of apple! Repeat for the strawberries, tossing them in the remaining lemon juice and adding a second teaspoon of water.
Place both fruit mixtures onto your prepared baking tray… if you prefer then you may cover it with foil before transferring to the oven. Bake for roughly 30 minutes or until the apples are tender, remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Once cooled, place all of your fruit into a blender/ food processor along with two tablespoons of caster sugar and blend until smooth!
Next, take a large mixing bowl (ideally glass) large enough to hold 1 liter (2 pints) followed by pouring in one bottle of prosecco… ideally chilled beforehand! Next add your blended fruit purée followed by handfuls of ice cubes and stir well to create a melting effect. Leave your mixture to chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour before serving!
Before serving, take a large glass (ideally one with a wide base) and spoon over some apple purée followed by sprinkling on strawberries… if you are feeling adventurous then why not add some yogurt or ice cream too?… but remember that these ingredients may contain traces of gluten so keep this in mind when picking items from the supermarket. Enjoy!
2. Frozen Prosecco Sorbet
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
- 6 tablespoons water
- 500ml (1 pint) prosecco (ideally chilled beforehand)
- 1 punnet raspberries
- A few drops lemon juice
- To serve: 4 scoops vanilla ice cream or yogurt (optional)
Place the lemon juice and sugar into a jug, mix well then set aside until needed.
In a pan pour over the water then add raspberries before sprinkling over the caster sugar followed by stirring gently to dissolve… allow your berries to macerate for between 30 minutes and 3 hours (depending on how sweet you would like them).
After this time has elapsed, place your raspberry mixture into a blender/ food processor along with two tablespoons of prosecco dialed in at its highest speed! Blend thoroughly until smooth!
Next take out your ice cream from its packet then spoon it into a freezer proof bowl and leave inside the freezer overnight – ideally wrapped tightly in cling film. After a few hours have elapsed, remove your sorbet from the freezer and place into an electric ice cream maker… follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully but once completed it should look similar to this
Before serving pour some prosecco over its surface, top with fresh raspberries and serve immediately!
HOPE YOU KNOW MORE ABOUT WHAT IS PROSECCO
Prosecco is a great drink to enjoy year-round. It pairs well with many foods and its bubbles are the perfect way to celebrate any occasion! If you’ve never had it before, we hope this guide has helped answer your questions about what prosecco is, why people love it so much, where you can buy it in stores or online, and how to serve it.
Now that you know everything there is to know about prosecco (and maybe even tried some!) please feel free to visit our blog for more information on wine pairings or other drinks too. Cheers!