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Fascinating appeal of Prosecco Superiore

Dwight Casimere | 3/19/2014, 12:09 p.m.
The Italian sparkling wine Prosecco is quickly gaining popularity. It's light, fruity and versatile taste and easy price-point make it ...

The Italian sparkling wine Prosecco is quickly gaining popularity. It's light, fruity and versatile taste and easy price-point make it an alternative to generally more expensive French Champagne. The fruit-forward flavor profile also makes it an easy-to-drink beverage that pairs nicely with lighter foods, such as salad and seafood and mild, soft cheeses. With spring fast-approaching, now might be a good time to take a look at its greatest expression, Prosecco Superiore. It was recently featured in a national tasting tour sponsored by Gambero Rosso, the Italian food and wine magazine and publishing group under the banner Italian Wine Tales; the fascinating appeal of Prosecco Superiore. It was an illuminating exploration of this delightful sparkling wine, which revealed the many faces of Italian Prosecco.

Gambero Rosso is the world's leading authority on Italian wine. Publisher of the Vini d'Italia wine guide since 1987, it also publishes quarterly magazines under its own name, and runs five food and wine training institutions throughout Italy, known as Citta del Gusto (the City of Taste) and Italy's version of The Food network and the only wine TV channel in the world.

"Each year, Gambero Rosso embarks on a world tour to present the very best of Italian wine," Gambero Rosso Marco Sabellico told me over a glass of Prosecco at New York's Metropolitan Pavilion, site of the Italian Wine Tales presentation. "This is our way of introducing Prosecco Superiore to a wider audience."

From the comments of various members of the wine trade, including restaurant owners, sommeliers, distributors, specialty wine shop and wine bar owners and members of the wine press, Prosecco Superiore has a bright future among American consumers. The lighter flavor profile is a definite plus as is the price. Most sell in the $10-$20 range with the top vintages at around $25, a considerable price advantage over champagne.

Among my favorites was the Valdellovo, a Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry from the Conegliano Valdobbiadene. It bears the name Anno Zero 2012 and sells for about $16. The wine was a Silver Medal winner in a 2012 International Wine Competition.

Made with a blend that is predominantly Glera (90%), the traditional indigenous grape used to make prosecco, in combination with other local varietals, such as Bianchetta and Verdiso, the wine has an elegance and softness that is distinctive. The aroma of white jasmine flowers recalls the sunny hillside vineyards kissed by sea breezes from which the grapes come. Tastes of crisp green apples and ripened pears add to the appealing taste. A bright acidity and just a hint of sweetness gives it a nicely balanced mouth feel.

The color of pale yellow straw, flecks of green and gold and fine, persistent

bubbles make it just as pretty to look at, as it is to taste.

La Farra Millesimato Extra Dry 2013 ($15) is made with 100% Glera grapes, formerly known as the Prosecco grape, from the heart of the Valdobbiadene. This prosecco will leave you breathless, with its fine, small bubbles, delicate nose and crisp, light taste. I would put this up against any champagne costing nearly double the price. It even has a nice long finish, which makes it ideal for pairing with mussels, lobster or seared scallops. A nice veal dish in a light mustard sauce incorporating some of the sparkling wine with a side of Orzo pasta salad made with roasted red peppers, capers, Italian parsley, lemon vinaigrette and Feta cheese, would make a perfect pairing. The Orzo pasta salad was just one of the dishes offered in a sumptuous buffet designed to show off food pairings with the wines that were offered.

With its distinctive bottling, Astoria Vini's Prosecco Millesimato ($24) is made entirely from the Prosseco gfape (Glera). Astoria Vini is a family owned company which is run by the 3rd generation family member Giorgio Polegato, who oversees every aspect of the winemaking process. Hand harvested from hillside vineyards 500 feet above sea level, the wine is culled from vines that are at least 12 years old. Only the free run juice is used at fermentation. Cold fermentation and aging in stainless steel tanks preserves the delicate floral notes and elegant balance. Rated 91 points by the Wine Enthusiast, this is at the top of the quality scale for Prosecco and at a fraction of the price of a French champagne of the same quality. Outstanding on its own, this is also a sparkler that can carry you through the meal, from cold jumbo shrimp in a Remoulade sauce to Lobster Souffle or Dover Sole pan auteed in brown butter, lemon and parsley. Finish with a Zabaione made with a dash of Marsala and you have a meal made in heaven.

It’s always good to have a reliable "standby" wine at any party that everyone will like and that is readily available at your local wine shop should you have to run out for more in a pinch. Mionetto always fits the bill on that count and delivers a terrific tasting sparkling wine at a great price that is also a real crowd pleaser. At just $16, this Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG exemplifies all that this region is about. A lovely summer straw color with a distinctive nose of white flowers and flavors of white peaches and golden delicious apples, this is an elegant sparkler that is perfect for an aperitif of with soft cheeses or risottos. From the heart of the Veneto, the distinctive black bottle and sophisticated; labeling make it a nice centerpiece for your first al fresco buffet table for spring!