By Celia Strong
Thanksgiving is a week away. Not only is this a big holiday for all of us, it is also the beginning of a five-week long season of holiday meals, parties, presents, family and friends, and on and on. For years now, we’ve all gotten into the habit of enjoying this season with glasses of bubbly. And, thanks to many food and wine magazines, newspaper articles and television tidbits, we’ve learned to search out and buy and drink an Italian bubbly called Prosecco. Until 2009, we all called the grape that made this wine “Prosecco” as well, but the real name for the grape “Glera” was reinstated. Very confusing — and this is why.
Before 2009, Prosecco was the name of the grape and the wine. The name Prosecco is derived from the northern Italian village of Prosecco near Trieste, where the grape may have originated. Its plantings in the area go back to Roman times and it ranks 30th among Italy’s 2,000 grape varieties. It is grown mainly in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy, traditionally in an area near Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, in the hills north of Treviso. The wines it made were Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene, Prosecco di Conegliano and Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, all DOC wines in the Italian wine laws, and many lesser versions, IGT’s, from surrounding areas. In 2009, a higher level, DOCG, of Prosecco, “Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadine” was declared. In order to avoid confusion with the slightly lower level DOC wines, the older “Glera” grape name was pulled out of retirement for use with the new DOCG. At the same time, Italian wine laws were adjusted so no other region could use the name “Prosecco” as the name on a wine, regardless of the grape. (Just so you know, it’s probably going to be a long time, if ever, before we all learn to call Prosecco anything but Prosecco, whether it’s DOCG or DOC or IGT level. Old habits die hard. And, truly, doesn’t it sound better to say you drank a glass of Prosecco than a glass of Glera? Glera? Who’s Glera?)
Unlike champagne, Prosecco’s biggest competition, Prosecco sparkling wine is made with the Charmat method. This is where the second fermentation that puts the bubbles into the wine is done in bulk and the sparkling wine is then bottled. (Champagne does the second fermentation in the bottle which is quite a bit more expensive and time consuming.) As of 2008, about 150 million bottles of Italian Prosecco were made, 60% of it from Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. Most of the bottles that we see here are IGT wines and a few DOC wines. Yes, these are the lower and mid-level of Prosecco wines, but they are also the more affordable levels. For as much as we like to have this bubbly for our holidays, the price has to be taken into consideration. Also, every year there is another great sounding recipe for a delicious sounding Prosecco cocktail. In case you don’t remember, the original Prosecco cocktail was, and still is I guess, a Bellini. This is Prosecco blended with white peach nectar. Sort of the Italian version of a Mimosa.
So, there are dozens of Prosecco wines available here. Many of us have favorites for various reasons. (Prosecco and football games comes to mind.) The whole point of this is to let you know that we do have a new one and it is the new DOCG level. (The “G” in DOCG stands for “guarantee.” This level of wine is tasted and tested to ensure that it is the very best — by Italian wine law.) This wine is 100% Prosecco, or Glera as we now know. The grapes all come from the highly esteemed area of Valdobbiadene, recognized as a superior area to Conegliano, which gives the wine a higher natural acidity. The vines for the grapes in this wine are about 25 years old and the grapes are picked by hand. The harvested grapes are soft pressed and the free run juice is placed in stainless steel tanks. They are allowed a brief maceration, about four hours, specially selected yeasts are added and fermentation is at a controlled 20 degrees centigrade. There is no malo-lactic fermentation, to keep the acidity stronger, and then the second fermentation is done in autoclaves. About a month later, when the right degree of bubble pressure is achieved, the wine is bottled and released with no further aging.
All of which gets this delicious wine to us! It is light straw colored, with a bit of green tint, very fine bubbles, and a fresh clean taste. The body is soft and the finish stays and stays. I can tell you this — the first sip and you know immediately that this is a way better Prosecco than we’re used to. And, at $19.99 per bottle, it still costs quite a bit less than real champagne and is still from the top level in its category. So what’s its name? Botter. Botter is way better — in fact, it’s the best bubbly for this price I’ve tasted in a long, long time. Enjoy!