BellendaproseccoAfter a hard days work a stop at the bar for a quick drink is a tradition stretching back several millennium. In the USA it’s Miller time and in the UK a pint of bitter, but in northern Italy you are more likely to find working men with large work-hardened fingers holding a delicate fluted wine glass and quaffing Prosecco while munching on salami and potato chips. Sparking wine is part of everyday life in Italy, not something for anniversaries and New Years Eve - and it’s priced accordingly. Our local bar is decidedly blue collar, but behind the bar is always a magnum of Prosecco on ice and more than a few of the oversized bottles disappear down the throats of thirsty Italians every day.

While Prosecco is often thought to be the name of a sparking wine, it is actually the name of a grape. In Veneto, wines from prosecco grapes are made into still, frizzante (lightly sparkling) and Spumante (sparkling) wines with quality ranging from tasteless to deliciously fruity and charming. Charm is what Prosecco Spumante is all about and the lovely fresh peach and citrus flavors of this grape are brought alive by the bubbles. Prosecco is for fun and for enjoying as often as possible and while it will never challenge the complexity of Champagne - for pure easy pleasure and refreshment the frothy sparking wines of Prosecco can’t be beat. The simple pleasures of Prosecco remind us that very enjoyable wines can be created from humble varieties in the hands of dedicated and educated winemakers with the best vineyards.

Stretching out north and northwest of Venice are endless prosecco vineyards most of which produce flavorless frizzante and sparkling wines sold for a few Euros a bottle in grocery stores, which are often “improved” by adding a dollop of Campari or Aperol. However, on the hills around the town of Conegliano the prosecco vine is most at home and produces wines with such exceptional aromatics and freshness that the region has been awarded its own DOC, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene. The sub-region of Cartizze is considered the finest of all and wines from this small zone add that name to their labels. These wines sell for a few more dollars than plain Prosecco, but are worth it due to their additional complexity and depth - all without giving up any of their charm. Dryness designations follow the Champagne model with Brut being the driest and Extra-dry being just off-dry. Prosecco sparkling wines are made by the Charmat method, which is the best method for preserving the luscious fruit flavors of this grape.

The delicious fruit flavors and aromatics of the best wines from Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene possess such a unique and pleasurable character that they should not be considered budget Champagnes, but sparkling wines with their own place in the wine world. The choice is not which is better, Champagne, Cava or Prosecco, but which is better for the moment and, of course the budget. Prosecco is a fruit driven wine and it is the quality of the fruit flavors that define the best wines from this region. These easy fruit flavors make Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene the perfect choice when you are looking for refreshment and one of the best of choices for brunch - Easter or not.

Recommeded wines:
2003 Bellenda Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene, Brut

The elegant bottle with the long narrow neck contains a wine that lives up to its presentation. It has a brilliant green/gold color filled with lively tiny bubbles. The aromas are fresh and alive with touches of peaches and sweet apples. On the palate it is creamy and frothy with sweet peach and melon flavors balanced by crisp citrus and a refreshing acidity. The finish makes you take yet another sip. ($17)

A John Given Selection: Imported by John Given Wines

Also very highly recommended: Col Vetoraz
With vineyards centered in the elite Cartizze zone Col Vetoraz is producing an excellent range of Prosecco sparking wines. These are wines that exhibit exceptional fruit purity and elegance. The Cartizze di Valdobbiadene N/V, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Brut And Prosecco Millesimato Dry are superb examples of the best that can be coaxed from the prosecco grape.

A Jens Schmidt Selection: Imported by Montecastelli Selections