Prosecco sometimes gets a bit of a dud deal - we tend to think of it as the ‘less fancy Champagne’, and to an extent (that extent being price!) it’s true. We grab a bottle for a night out or even just for a night in, it’s easy drinking and predictably good sparkling. And of course, sparkling wine is fun, so it’s an easy choice considering bang for buck!
There’s so much more to the humble drop of Prosecco, though - some interesting facts even we here at Bottle Service didn’t know. For starters, it has its origins in Ancient Roman times, reportedly helps you live a long life, and it has an interesting rivalry with the heavyweight of bubbly, Champagne. So, before we pour our next Mimosa or Bellini with a bottle of Italy’s best, let’s get to know a little more about the bubbles in the bottle.
It’s actually a place!
The Prosecco of today we have come to know and love came from the village of Prosecco, a suburb in the city of Trieste in northeastern Italy. The name isn’t actually Italian, though - prosecco is in fact from the Slovenian word prozek, which means ‘path through the woods’. Today, the production of Prosecco extends well beyond the village it was named after, in order to meet worldwide demand.
It’s also a really, really old type of wine
Prosecco is typically made from Glera grapes, which are a varietal that grows particularly well in the Prosecco region. Glera was however first grown in ancient Rome. In fact, in the book Natural History by Pliny the Elder—who died in 79 AD—mentions Julia Augusta, “who gave the credit for her eighty-six years of life to the wine of Pizzino”. The original name was in Latin, written as Pucino vino, mentioning the wine from Prosecco. Not many wines can claim a piece of ancient history quite like this!
The Glera grape isn’t as glam as it could be
You may not have heard of Glera before, and that’s because it’s not as not as famous as the Champagne grape, Chardonnay - or any of the other common white varietals, for that matter. Prosecco is more flexible than Champagne though - it can also be made with relatively unknown Italian grapes such as Perera, Bianchetta, and Verdiso, as well as the far more common grapes like Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir. It’s Glera, though, that’s the grandfather grape, and still commonly used to make Prosecco exported all around the world.
It’s (mostly) not made like Champagne
One kind of Prosecco can be (the Conegliano Valdobbiadene), butut the rest is made in the charmat, or ‘tank’ method. This describes how the wine goes through its secondary fermentation phase in big steel tanks, rather than in the bottle. This generally means less contact with the yeast sediment, although a winemaker might play with this and introduce elements such as the yeast to create different flavour profiles.
$$: the tank method is a good thing!
As fermenting relatively huge quantities of wine is much more efficient in giant tanks instead of individually turning the bottles (as is the case with Champagne), it means the resulting product, Prosecco, is far less expensive to produce. That saving is passed on to us Prosecco drinkers, and it ends up far cheaper to buy. Cha ching!
It’s also good for ze palate
Just because it’s efficient doesn’t mean the tank method skimps on taste or class. As Prosecco is made with what we describe as ‘aromatic’ grapes, the method of secondary tank fermentation allows for those characters to shine through in the finished product. This means it’s just as complex as Champagne, and the grape’s natural flavours get their time in the spotlight, too.
You like Bellinis? Us, too
The much-loved Bellini cocktail was first made in 1948 at the iconic Harry’s Bar in Venice, where a clever barman created the ultimate hen’s party drink: juicy white peach flesh pushed through a sieve, and topping the peach with beautifully crisp Prosecco. Yum!
It’s not all bubbly
The fancy word for bubbles in wine is perlage, and Prosecco comes in three different types, or ‘levels’. The bubbliest is known as spumante, the second-most fizzy is frizzante, and the entirely still (as in, no bubbles at all!) is tranquillo.
Actually it wasn’t bubbly until kind of recently
Prosecco wasn't actually a sparkling wine until the 19th century! The Romans loved it, and it’s in fact been loved every since, but it wasn’t until Antonio Carpenè decided to ferment a batch of the still wine twice that Prosecco became the bubbles that are now famed the world over. The Carpenè Malvolti winery due north of Venice was the first to produce the Prosecco as we know and love today.
Prosecco versus Champagne - a rivalry story
According to the very real Sparkling Wine Observatory (and yes, there is such a thing!), 307 million bottles of Prosecco were sold in 2013, compared with just 304 of Champagne. The reason this happened (they say the likely reason, anyway) is a simple financial one: affordability of quality Prosecco compared to the higher price point for Champagne. Sparkling wine is also having a bit of a revival - which we’re pretty happy about - meaning that the ‘everyday’ drinking trend has boosted sales for the more affordable of the sparkling drops.
We’ll definitely cheers to that!
Just in case you aren’t a Champagne pro, we’ve compiled a handy list of hints to up your game – with plenty of time before the festive season kicks off this year to get you into the groove!
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