Flurry around the fizz
Proseccos at LCBO are great buys — and here’s why they’re worth taking home
Ontario is in the midst of a love affair with Prosecco — that stylish, pear-scented wine from Italy. And apparently, so is the rest of the world. So much so that Britain is reporting possible shortages.
A shortage isn’t expected to affect Ontario because the LCBO secures huge quantities when it buys on our behalf, but it does speak to the flurry around this fizz.
We bought 1.6 million bottles of Prosecco last year at the LCBO, up from 768,000 in 2011. That’s a 119-percent hike.
So what’s all the fuss about?
Prosecco is an altogether better drop than it used to be, but prices have yet to shoot up.
You can still get a great bottle of delicate, refreshing, beautifully balanced DOC Prosecco for less than $15 and the more premium DOCG Prosecco for less than $20. That’s something to lift a glass to.
And apparently many people are doing just that — frequently.
“In 2009, everything changed,” Alexander Hofer, sales and marketing director for Santa Margherita Gruppo Vinicolo, told me over a proper lunch of pizza and wine this month.
“In 2009, the Italian Minister of Agriculture, Luca Zaia, pushed in a very smart and effective way to transform Prosecco from a grape variety you basically could grow everywhere (not just in Italy) into a protected, demarcated region or ‘appellation’ — with strictly regulated grape growing and winemaking practices, as well as traceability. Zaia’s main objective was to protect the heritage and tradition of Prosecco.”
This change had huge implications. When Prosecco was the name of the grape (now called Glera), the word could be slapped on any label made from that variety — much like Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and so forth.
But with the creation of DOC Prosecco, the name could only appear on labels of wine from a defined area that complied with set standards.
DOCG Prosecco was already a controlled appellation by 2009, but it only spanned a 7,191-hectare area roughly sandwiched between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene in the Treviso province of Veneto. This hilly historical centre has the best terroir for making fine Prosecco, but the introduction of DOC Prosecco expanded the Prosecco region a further 20,250 hectares.
Essentially, this change upgraded wines from the plains of the Friuli and Veneto regions, harnessing to production of a relatively consistent, good quality sparkling wine that could be produced in quantity inexpensively.
Prosecco is made bubbly by undergoing a second fermentation in bulk tanks, then bottled under pressure, which is a relatively cheap way to get bubbles in bottles.
The tank method is far less expensive than conducting a second fer- mentation in bottle — the method required for, say, Champagne. But beyond being bubbly, Prosecco is not the same as that fine French fizz. It doesn’t tend to improve with age. It’s not often as complex. And of course, it’s made from entirely different grape varieties, so it tastes different.
But if you’re looking for an inexpensive, crowd-pleasing bubbly to pour at a party, it’s hard to beat Prosecco.
You can’t actually stock up so you’re ahead of the game when prices finally rise, because it’s not a wine built to last. Carolyn Evans Hammond is a Torontobased wine writer. She is also a Londontrained sommelier and two-time bestselling wine book author. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.