Daily Archives: June 27, 2010

Italy’s Sparkling Wines

As I have mentioned before I really like Italian Prosecco as far as sparkling wines go. But Italy has more than just Prosecco. Most people don’t realize that Italy actually produces more different types of sparkling wines than any other country in the world! No joke! They have been producing spumantes (sparkling wines) since Roman times! This was way before Dom Perignon discovered champagne in France! I am going to cover the basic sparkling wines Italy is proud of. There is Prosecco, Franciacorta, Asti, Moscato D’Asti and Bracchetto. Italian sparkling wines are usually less expensive than the French and California varieties.They are perfect anytime so put aside those memories of the 1970s and those really campy Asti Spumante commercials and try Italian sparkling wine again, for the first time! I will always choose a Prosecco over a Champagne for sure!

Almost all of Italy’s sparkling wines are produced in the cooler, northern regions of Italy. The regions of Piedmont, Veneto and Lombardy are the primary regions. As I mentioned in another post the method to making Italian sparkling wines is called Charmat which is very unlike the Champagne method . This method has the second fermentation being done in a tank instead of in the bottles. This results in a wine that is bottled much younger. This also means they should be consumed when young and not saved for a special occasion years later. I believe you should drink sparkling wine as you would any wine, whenever you want! Don’t save for a special occasion, drink it now! So everyday is a celebration that way!

PROSECCO: This light sparkling wine from the Veneto region of northern Italy is made for summer drinking. Which is why I have it all the time here in Florida! It’s summer almost all year! Prosecco is light, refreshing and can have slight hints of melon, pear and almonds. I have actually had a sparkling almond wine. It was delicious. It tasted like sparkling amaretto! Prosecco is made from a grape of the same name and is excellent with calamari, pasta, or salad. But if you ask me, it’s excellent with everything or just by itself! Traditionally, Prosecco is an off-dry (slightly sweet) wine, but there are many that are dry and crisp. If you like a more dry sparkling wine look for the labels that say “brut”. If you remember from my past posts you will know that Prosecco is the star of the Bellini cocktail which is made from fresh white peach juice/nectar, which was created at Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy!

Prosecco Grapes

FRANCIACORTA: This is Italy’s sparkling wine star. Unlike other sparkling wines, Franciacorta is made using the Champagne method. It’s fermented in the bottles which need to be rotated every day. This leads to smaller, more abundant bubbles and a more subtle taste. Franciacorta is a name of a place, a region in the Lombardy Lake District. This wine is made from a variety of grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco (Pinot Blanc) and Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir). It is usually a dry wine with hints of vanilla, almonds and yellow ripe fruit. It is a much stricter process of aging as well. Italian Wine Law says that it must be aged for at least 18 months and vintage Franciacorta for 30 months! That is a long time for aging! Franciacortas are great with risotto, seafood, white meat and baked fish.

Chardonnay Grapes

Pinot Noir Grape

Pinot Noir Grape

Pinot Bianco Grapes

ASTI: I remember the days as a kid hearing all those commercials for Asti. It used to be called Asti Spumante but now it’s just Asti. Remember Asti Spumante, that’s nice? It was once a popular sweet wine for those college days of drinking inexpensively! Asti now produces a large number of excellent sparkling wines. Asti is also a place name, a lovely town, set in the gentle rolling hills of Piedmont, in northern Italy of course! The rugged, limestone soil in this region is ideal for growing grapes. Grapes don’t seem to do well in “perfect” soil! Who knew? Other than the usual Asti sparkling wine Asti also produces the light and crisp Moscato d’Asti as well as a red sparkling wine called Brachetto. Asti is usually a light, slightly off-dry wine with hints of peach and is made from 100% Moscato (Muscat grapes). It is very high in acidity and this helps to balance out its sweetness. Asti is a non-vintage wine, which means it doesn’t have a year on the bottle and is best to drink within 1-3 years from when it’s bottled. If you are buying a bottle I wouldn’t buy the one that is all dusty on the shelf. Most likely it’s been there way too long and will not be any good. Asti is great with gorgonzola cheese (also from the Piedmont region) and by itself as a before dinner drink!

Moscato Grapes

MOSCATI D’ASTI: Moscati d’Asti is also made from the Moscato grapes. It is technically what they call a fizzante, which is a fizzy or lightly sparkling wine. Moscato d’Asti has less bubbles than Asti does. It is light and crisp and actually pretty low in alcohol, about 5%-7%! It’s best to drink this with the traditional Italian wafer, biscotti or in the summer with a nice crisp salad! In Piedmont, Italy it’s tradition to drink a glass in celebration on Christmas Day! Nice!

BRACHETTO: This is a lesser known sparkling wine because it’s a ruby-red sparkling wine! Very pretty! It’s made from the Brachetto grapes. This wine is festive and light and ready for a party! The hints of strawberry and cherry are subtle and it’s excellent when consumed with fruit and cheese or a light dessert! A cannoli perhaps? I hear it’s even great with pizza! So try and find some of this and see how you like it! I am definitely going to try and find this as I’ve never had it before. Sounds like another good sparkler for summertime!

Brachetto Grapes

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