Thursday, February 24, 2011

About Prosecco

By Jack Simony

I'm writing about Prosecco today, because it seems that every time I turn around in a restaurant, I hear someone or other order a glass (or bottle) of the stuff.  The someone is usually a woman.  Men overheard ordering Prosecco?  Not so much.  I like a dry, crisp, refreshing glass of Prosecco as much as the next guy, but if I'm i the mood for light, dry and thirst-quenching, I tend to reach for a beer instead.

There was a good article in the Wall Street Journal about Prosecco this summer.  The author makes the case that Prosecco is best enjoyed in Italy, where it tends to be at its liveliest best, that Prosecco does not age well and, unlike champagne and many other wines, is best enjoyed sooner rather than later...usually within a year of its vintage, in fact. 

The author couldn’t understand Prosecco’s wide (and expanding) appeal in the States…until, that is, she was invited to a Prosecco tasting evening, along with Le Bernardin’s wine director and the members of a Prosecco club that met monthly in Brooklyn, NY.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the membership is all female.

The group uniformly preferred the dry Proseccos to those that were sweeter.  The clear favorite?  The Nino Franco Rustico ($15).

Another Prosecco with a very consistent and large following – not only among the members of that Brooklyn Prosecco group but more generally throughout the States – is the Mionetto Prosecco Brut (also $15).

What is Prosecco?  It’s a white wine grape (also known as the Glera grape) that is grown mainly in Italy’s Veneto region, in the hills north of Treviso.  While Prosecco can be a still wine, it is best known in its sparkling variety.  It can be either lightly sparkling (frizzante) or vigorously so (spumante).  The still variety of Prosecco is seldom exported.  The sparkling variety is not made using the same methods employed to make Champagne, as those would require aging the wine over time before its release for consumption, and Prosecco’s appeal lies in its freshness, as I stated above.  Rather, it is made using something called the Charmat method, which puts the wine through a short second fermentation in pressurized tanks, rather than Champagne’s longer second fermentation in individualized bottles that are turned daily.

Prosecco is served chilled, like champagne (and beer, I can’t help but add); at only eleven-twelve percent alcohol by volume, it is lower in alcohol content than other sparkling wines.  While dry Proseccos with robust bubbles have become the Proseccos of choice nowadays, they were traditionally only slightly fizzy and somewhat sweet back in the old days.

Italians will drink Persecco with practically anything and under any circumstances.  In fact, it’s even available in Italy in cans.  Here, most people drink it as an aperitif.  I think it pairs best with light fare myself, seafood in particular (my girlfriend likes it with cheese, though, so go figure), and if you catch Jack Simony drinking it, chances are its summer.  It has notes of fruit, sometimes discernable as lemon or melon, sometimes just, generally, amorphously fruity.

As for the author of the Wall Street Journal article?  She came away from her evening with the Persecco group and the wine director of Le Bernardin a bigger fan of Persecco than she’d been only a few hours earlier.  If she likes Persecco, I have a few great craft beers to suggest to her.  

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