By Celia Strong
With the holidays coming, we can celebrate early with bubbles. Besides tasting and learning about new wines, it is important to do some planning ahead so we have exactly the wines we want to drink at home and ready when we need them. That means chilled as needed, correct glasses washed and polished, foods that will help our wines taste as good as they can (and vice versa) and our minds and hearts ready to enjoy the festivities.
This week will feature a fabulous Prosecco from Italy. We have this wine for several reasons. One because it is new and we have to get acquainted with it. And, two will come in a bit. For now, though, let’s start with a look at Italian sparkling wines. Any country, and likewise any winemaker, that makes wine can make sparkling wine. All they need is some grapes and one of several methods to get bubbles into the wine they make from their grapes. For many, many years, when we thought of Italian sparkling wine, we came up with Asti, a sparkling wine (“spumante” is Italian for “sparkling) made in the Piedmont region from Moscato grapes.
More recently, sparkling wines made from Prosecco grapes have become more well known and very popular. It’s interesting to note, that there are several levels of Prosecco wine — DOCG, the top legal level of Italian wine; DOC and IGT. Depending on where you look or who you ask, it can get confusing when you name the grape variety making these wines. Yes, it is Prosecco grape. Sort of. But, the latest reports say these wines are made from the Glera white grape variety. Confusing? Of course, we’re talking about European wines. But, more about that in a moment.
Besides the DOCG Asti and DOCG and DOC Prosecco, the other legally recognized Italian sparkling wines are DOC Lambrusco (a red sparkling that can be either dry or sweet), DOCG Franciacorta (made from Pinot Nero, Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay, and excellent when you find one), and DOC Trento (made from the same three grapes as Franciacorte with Pinot Meunier added).
Some of these sparkling wines are made using the “mèthode Champenoise.” The Champagne method that produces the bubbles in the bottle you buy the wine in. In Italy, it is most often known as “metodo classico,” the classic method. Obviously, you don’t want to say you’re using the Champagne method when you can’t even make Champagne. (Champagne has to come from certain grapes grown on certain soil in France only. So, Italians call it the classic method.) There is a certain amount of time involved in this process, more than other methods. So the sparkling wines made using the classic method tend to cost a bit more. The Charmat method is used to speed up the time involved and lower the cost of many sparkling wines. This process does the second fermentation, where the wine gets its bubbles, in bulk. A lot at a time and then the bubbly wine is bottled under pressure and corked. This process was created and patented by an Italian, Frederico Martinotti, in 1895. Several years later, in 1907, a Frenchman, Jean Charmat, adapted Martinotti’s method and it’s been known as the Charmat method ever since. (Maybe another reason the Italians don’t like the French name for their classic method?) Most, really almost all, wines labeled as sparkling Prosecco are made with the Charmat, bulk second fermentation, process.
Moving on, let’s get this grape variety Glera straight. More to the point, why its wines are called Prosecco. Glera is a neutral grape, grown mostly for making sparkling wines. It is probably an ancient variety, derived from the village of Prosecco near Trieste. It is possible it has been grown since Roman times. Tradition in the area around the village of Prosecco was to call the wine and the grape by the same name. Prosecco. When Italian DOC wines laws were written, Prosecco was the DOC for wines from the village and specific areas near it. And, IGT wines, a lower legal level were also called Prosecco. In 2009, the Prosecco wines from two specific areas, Conegliano and Valdobiadine, were upgraded to DOCG level. Because of the confusion between Prosecco the DOC and Prosecco the grape grown for DOC and non-DOC wines, the decision was made to return to calling all these grapes Glera. So, see they were made from Prosecco and now they’re made from Glera. Phew!
Now, on to our winery for this week — Cavicchioli. This family has been growing vines in the Modena province, in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, for over a century. In 1928, Umberto Cavicchioli bottled the first wines with the family name on them. All the Cavicchioli bottles made today show this year on them. Umberto’s two grandsons still work at the winery; Claudio takes care commercial concerns and Sandro is the winemaker. The Cavicchioli family owns almost 235 acres, making them one of the largest vineyard owners in Modena. In their vineyards, the family focuses on owning their vines, low yields from their vines and high quality wines. Modena is the center of Lambrusco production, and the Cavicchiolis make these red wines.
But, they also make several sparkling wines. And we are now at our Prosecco for this week. This is an Extra Dry Spumante. Made from 100 percent Glera grapes. These grapes are grown in the province of Treviso, in Veneto region of northeastern Italy. The grapes are hand picked, some under-ripe to preserve acidity for the finished wine. Maceration, the juice sitting with the skins, lasts about 12 hours at cool temperatures (45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit). The first fermentation, to make the wine, is also temperature controlled. And the Charmat second fermentation, to make the bubbles, is done at a cooler temperature over 15 to 24 days.
The finished sparkling Prosecco is a DOC wine. It is a pale, pale gold color, with a white foam that forms when it is poured. Its bubbles are lively, small and persistent — that comes from the length of time at the cooler temperature.
This wine has candied fruit flavors like crystallized lemon rind and floral notes. And a long, clean finish. A great addition to our collection of Proseccos, and for only $10.99 at Bill’s Liquor on Lady’s Island, it’s an excellent addition, one to be enjoyed often.
That brings me to our second reason for learning about this wine this week. October 26 is National Champagne Day That’s this weekend! I know Cavicchioli Prosecco is not officially Champagne but we can buy more of it and drink more of it. And we can remember it in a couple of weeks for Thanksgiving festivities.