Wines of Summer: Prosecco

Five years ago, few Americans were aware of Prosecco. As we enter the third year of the New Normal (formerly known as the Great Recession), it suddenly seems that everyone’s drinking it.

Named for its grape variety, Prosecco is produced in the Veneto region of Northern Italy. It is a welcome wine, and if you travel in that region you’re likely to be presented with a glass upon entering a restaurant or private home. The best Prosecco is made in the hills north of Treviso, in the vicinity of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene.

For many consumers, its main appeal is price—around $15, or roughly one-third the tab for a bottle of non-vintage Brut Champagne, in most cases. Its cost reflects the method of production. Rather than using the time-consuming and expensive methode champenoise, in which the secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle, most Prosecco is fermented in stainless steel tanks using the Charmat process.

The result is a soft, rich sparkling wine which is remarkably easy to drink, filled with succulent flavors of citrus, apple, pear and peach. While normally enjoyed as an aperitivo, it pairs well with finger food, hors d’oeuvres and simple fish and shellfish dishes. Because of Prosecco’s relaxed and casual image, most people won’t think twice about blending it with fruit juices or other mixers; in fact, along with the juice of fresh-squeezed peaches, it was the original base for the Bellini.

The largest importer of Prosecco into the U.S. is Mionetto, who introduced it to Americans about ten years ago. Founded in 1887, Mionetto produces three different quality tiers that range in price from $10-20. Another reliable source is the family-owned house of Zardetto. Nino Franco, another family-run establishment, is best known for their Rustico bottling. Whichever one you choose, you won’t be disappointed—particularly while peaches are in season.

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