What Is Prosecco?
Prosecco is a naturally sparkling wine with a second fermentation similar to Champagne. But it’s a lot more affordable. Here’s why.
By Fraya Berg for Food Network Kitchen
Fraya is a chef and a contributing writer at Food Network.
If you’re having a party on a budget or you’re looking for an affordable, crisp sparkling white wine, head to the prosecco shelf at your local wine shop. They’ll be able to steer you towards the best bottles of prosecco.
What Is Prosecco?
Prosecco is a sparkling white wine from Italy, from Glera grapes grown in the northeastern Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions. The area is just a few hours from Venice, an easy ride in a Fiat. Trieste was once the “capital” of the prosecco-producing region, but no longer is.
The alcohol content of prosecco is one of the lowest of all wines at 12%, compared to the highest which is 14.5% in some California red wines.
In Italian, full sparkling wines like most proseccos are called spumante, medium sparkling wines (which are not as bubbly) are called frizzante and still wines are called tranquilo. Almost all of the prosecco produced in Italy is spumante. There are a myriad of rules laid down by the EU wine regulations and the Italian regulators, too numerous to mention here, but suffice it to say any bottle of prosecco with a DOC or DOCG label is certified to be from a very precise region in Italy, is protected by the Italian regulators and will be a good quality bottle of wine.
What Is Prosecco Made From?
Prosecco is made from Glera grapes, a thin-skinned green grape, plus a combination of other grapes based on the particular flavors a winemaker wishes to impart. For wine to be called prosecco, the blend of grapes must be at least 85% Glera. The remaining grapes can be: Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Verdiso, Bianchetta Trevigiana, Perera or Pinot Bianco.
As of 2020, the regulators officially recognize rosé prosecco, which is made with, in addition to glera grapes, pinot noir grapes left on the skin.
What Does Prosecco Taste Like?
Prosecco is a vibrant, highly aromatic, light-bodied and crisp wine. With a pH around 3.3, prosecco is acidic, but not out of the range of normal compared to other wines, and the forward fruity flavors of melon, apple, peaches and pears provide balance in the wine. The big, bouncy bubbles also contribute to the flavor, making it assertive. Its fruitiness makes it perfect for the Aperol spritz, one of the most popular cocktails in Italy - and, in today's day and age - the U.S. and abroad.
Is Prosecco Champagne?
Bubbles in a white wine will always draw a comparison to champagne no matter what the wine is because Champagne is the name people recognize. But prosecco is not Champagne.
The only wine in the world that can legitimately be labeled champagne is the wine produced in the Champagne region of France. AOC, the French wine regulatory commission, oversees all of the wine in France, and they are not messing around when it comes to Champagne. Prosecco is a sparkling wine, not a Champagne. In addition to the ironclad rules of the AOC, there are other differences between the two, such as grape varieties used in making the wine, how the bubbles get into the wine, how long the process takes, etc. Because Champagne is more intensive to produce produce than prosecco, in addition to being highly regulated, it is more expensive.
All this being said, there are wonderful producers of prosecco, and personal taste is just that: personal taste. Some people like prosecco and some people like Champagne. Some people like pasta with red sauce, some people only like cream sauce. No judgement.
Is Prosecco Dry or Sweet?
Prosecco is available in a spectrum that ranges from dry to sweet. In fact, there's a naming system used on labels that denotes how dry a given bottle is. From driest to sweetest, the naming system is: Brut nature, extra brut, brut, extra dry, dry, demi sec and dolce. Brut is dry, dry is sweet-ish and sec is even sweeter.
It’s convenient to remember these facts, but when you go to a reputable wine shop to buy a wine, just ask. Most of the people who work in wine shops love talking about the wine, and are happy to impart any knowledge they have.
Recipes Featuring Prosecco
The Aperol spritz may be glamorous, but it's easy to create with just a few ingredients, and perfect for a crowd.
The recipe for the prosecco cream in these pastries uses only 1/4 cup — keep the rest chilled for cocktails with dessert.
An entire bottle of prosecco goes into this recipe for turkey, and the gravy is delicious because of it.
The Italian 75 is a riff on the classic French 75: the prosecco stands in for the champagne to give it that special Italian flair.
Prosecco and vodka pack a punch in this cocktail, but the sorbet balances it out.