ALTHOUGH reports of a prosecco shortage have now been officially denied, the scare has brought the popular wine’s story into focus. Once Italy realised that the world would rather have well-made prosecco than almost any asti spumante, prosecco quality started an upward quality curve.
Prosecco was once both a place and the name of its principal grape. That allowed other regions to use the grape name and, thus, also call its sparkling wine prosecco.
Wily old officialdom’s canny response was to change the name of the grape to “glera”. Geographic protection laws then ensured that prosecco could only come from the original (and best) production areas.
Prosecco also plays the sweetness card well. It has a little more residual sugar than champagne, but much less than original versions of asti spumante (which nowadays has changed in form and image anyway).
Most significantly though, it is normally made by a different method. Champagne’s secondary fermentation (which produces all the bubbles) is in the bottle – the méthode traditionnelle. In prosecco, that second fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks with the resulting wine bottled under pressure (the Charmat method). This makes the wine fresher and slightly less yeasty – and in a style many drinkers love.
As a precaution against low harvests, though, it is worth seeking out a back-up for prosecco. For instance, Languedoc’s Cuvée Royale Cremant de Limoux Brut (£8.49, down from £11.49 until 21 July at Waitrose) also has those characteristic red apple flavours, which here are enticingly immersed in a busy mousse with fresh, lively acidity, yet skilfully balanced by toasty, savoury richness.
My pick of these prosecco alternatives, however, is 2010 Vintage Cava Brut (£9, instead of £14, until tomorrow at M&S).
Cava can be disappointing, but this is excellent fare with rounded acidity and green apple freshness given an acidic burst by touches of lime and orange, yet preserving typical méthode traditionnelle biscuit and vanilla influences.
2014 Luzon Verde Organic Jumilla, Spain, 14 per cent
This is one of several – pretty good – new Spanish reds under £10 in Oddbins and has the classic organic wine combination of bright, pure fruit yet vaguely earthy, but attractive, savoury undertones. Here, it also brings together firm acidity, cherry menthol and clove flavours along with that typical monastrell (mourvèdre) tannic twist.
£8.50 at Oddbins
2014 Truly Irresistible Greco Benevento, Italy, 12.5 per cent
With its distinctive “Grecula” label, this soft and fresh white wine will not be hard to find. It uses greco – another of the “reinvented” Italian grape varieties – to provide gentle but textured apple flavours, a lemon-centred acidic prickle, hints of peach and a touch of spice too.
£6.99 at the Co-op