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Frothy, foamy and fun

Prosecco is on a roll, says Joelle Thomson

When a high-quality, low-priced sparkling wine overtakes Champagne in sales, you know someone is doing something right; and over the past four years that something has been Prosecco.

It surged ahead in 2013, with global sales of 307 million bottles, leaving Champagne trailing with just 304 million. The year before, Prosecco producers expanded their production by 24% and, three years previously, they had converted 27 vineyards and hundreds of hectares of land to growing grapes for this foamy fizz.

Prosecco is on a roll everywhere, including the United Kingdom (which has a bar dedicated entirely to Prosecco), China (the fastest growing market), and New Zealand, a small fast-growing market.

While we are a miniscule market in global terms, Kiwis are beginning to lap up the tidal wave of Proseccos that are pouring onto our shores. In the past couple of years, several new brands have arrived, the most prominent of which are Riccadonna (that old Asti Spumante production company, which now has its own Prosecco) and Jacob’s Creek from Australia.

Price is the main reason that Prosecco is winning market share. Here is a fizz, from $12–$20 that is affordable. 

The other reason, of course, is the fizz factor. Prosecco is frothy, foamy and fun, delivering almost as much fizz as champagne (which, strictly speaking, has a higher density of bubbles per bottle), but at less than a fifth of the price.

Like Champagne, most Prosecco tastes dry but contains added sweetness to balance the naturally high acidity in the wine, which is made from early-harvested grapes. The early harvest keeps sweetness (and therefore the ultimate alcohol content) low, so that the second fermentation can add the bubbles, boost the alcohol (slightly) and, deliver the fun factor.

Like Champagne, Prosecco comes from an extremely fragmented region of production; 3,000 grape growers and 166 bottlers are involved in its making. Prosecco’s accessible price, its wide availability and its fresh lemony flavours have made it the numero uno sparkling wine globally.

Prosecco is not legally permitted to be produced anywhere other than the province of Treviso in north east Italy, but trust the Australians to work around the law – they are the only producers outside Italy to have obtained permission to use the name.

New Zealand winemakers are innovating when it comes to bubbly wine. The use of crown seals (beer-bottle-type tops) on sparkling wine is something Villa Maria is doing extremely well and creating very fresh wines. The Methode Marlborough group of winemakers in Marlborough is championing the 100% regionality of their high quality, bottle fermented sparkling wines. Martinborough winemaker Simon Groves is putting spare pinot noir grapes to good use in the first ever Te Muna Road bubbly. Wairarapa’s Cambridge Road and Porter’s Pinots producers are making very good quality, adventurously different bubbles.

Enjoy the Prosecco but when it comes to New Zealand bubbles, viva la difference.

Top Prosecco drops

Scanavino Prosecco
Excellent value.

Carpene Malvolti Prosecco Superiore
This wine rocks with high quality delicious X-factor because it comes from Prosecco’s heartland; Conegliano-Valdobbiadene (the good news is: you don’t have to pronounce the words to enjoy this outstanding Prosecco).

Riccadonna Prosecco
The words ‘extra dry’ on the front label mean that this wine is actually a off-dry in style, but well balanced by the fresh acidity of the Glera grape.

Jacob’s Creek Reserve Sparkling Prosecco
Just 9.5% ABV and typical flavours of rock melon, green apple and citrusy lemon zest.

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