Sec­ond fer­men­ta­tion helps make wine bub­bly

Prosec­cos at LCBO are great buys — and here’s why they’re worth tak­ing home

Toronto Star - - LIFE - Carolyn Evans Ham­mond

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 [email protected]­olynevan­sham­mond.com.

ANNE-MARIE JACK­SON/TORONTO STAR

A won­der­ful way to pic­nic. On­tario, along with the rest of the world, is in the midst of a love af­fair with Pros­ecco, a pear-scented wine from Italy. Bri­tain is re­port­ing pos­si­ble short­ages.

Bel­canto di Bel­lussi Pros­ecco di Val­dob­bi­adene DOGC Su­pe­ri­ore, Italy (Re­leased Satur­day in Vin­tages LCBO 53215 $19.95) A vi­brant yet min­eral ex­pres­sion of up­per-tier Pros­ecco here with both power and fi­nesse. In­tense green pear core is shot through with steely, stony min­er­al­ity that ta­pers to a long, slow fin­ish of white mush­room and lime. Bright acid­ity hides some resid­ual sugar so it tastes drier than it is — and per­fectly bal­anced. Much con­cen­tra­tion and com­plex­ity for the price. Serve it with fish or seafood — ide­ally, grilled sar­dines on toast. Score: 92

Santa Margherita Brut Val­dob­bi­adene Pros­ecco DOCG Su­pe­ri­ore, Italy (Vin­tages LCBO 687582 $18.95) Sea­spray and fresh pears on the nose lead to an aus­tere, de­cid­edly saline and deeply stony wine that brings to mind slate, flint and a stroll by the ocean. The bub­bles are fine, the mouth feel creamy, and the acid­ity ra­zor sharp, com­ing to­gether in a taut, in­tense ex­pe­ri­ence that per­sists on the fin­ish. Tastes bone dry. Not hard to see why this is the best­selling Pros­ecco in Vin­tages. Fab­u­lous with Parma ham sliced pa­per thin.Score: 92+

Bot­tega Vino dei Poeti Pros­ecco DOC, Italy (LCBO 897702 $14.95) Gen­tle aro­mas of pear, green ap­ple and honey­suckle lead to a fresh, mouth-wa­ter­ing at­tack. Re­strained fruit shows at­trac­tive al­mond-flo­ral un­der­pin­nings that linger on the fin­ish. Ac­ces­si­ble yet so­phis­ti­cated with a del­i­cacy and fi­nesse that’s tough to find at this price. Stylish pour and easy go-to for sass and sub­stance. Dry. Great with grilled cala­mari. Score: 90

Villa Sandi “Il Fresco” Pros­ecco DOC, Italy (LCBO 194191 $9.95 375 mL; 394387 $14.45 750 mL) This aro­matic style shows a pro­nounced al­most trop­i­cal nose that leads to a more re­strained yet racy palate lay­er­ing flavours of pear, white peach and white flow­ers edged with a salti­ness that keeps you com­ing back for more. Dry. Serve it with a bowl of very good olives. Or sip it at Star­bucks where they sell cute 200 mL bot­tles for $9. Score: 89

Blu Giovello Pros­ecco DOC, Italy (LCBO 85316 $13.85) Pros­ecco’s char­ac­ter­is­tic note of pear is im­bued with bit­ter or­ange and white grape­fruit that yields a com­pelling fin­ish and sea­sons the palate beau­ti­fully. The hint of sweet­ness is bal­anced with le­mon squirt acid­ity so it finishes clean and dry. Pour it with truf­fled pop­corn. Or mix it half-and­half with peach nec­tar to make a Bellini, the fa­mous cock­tail of Venice. Score: 91

ALESSIA PIER­DOMENICO/BLOOMBERG

Em­ploy­ees carry buck­ets as they head into the vine­yard, to har­vest grapes grown for use in Pros­ecco wine.

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