Prosecco: The World’s Favourite Bubbles
It outsells champagne and has made Italy the world’s largest producer of sparkling wine. But why has Prosecco proved a stumbling block in Australia’s trade negotiations with Europe?
What is Prosecco?
Prosecco is a light, sparkling wine from Italy’s Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions. In Italy, it’s made from at least 85 per cent Prosecco grapes, with up to 15 per cent from other grape varieties.
The Prosecco grape was re-named Glera in 2009, causing some problems internationally as we shall see. The wine is relatively low in alcohol, about 11 to 12 per cent by volume.
Unlike Champagne, which undergoes secondary fermentation in the bottle, Prosecco‘s secondary fermentation occurs in large tanks, making it less costly to produce.
A Grape with History
References to Prosecco go back to the 16th century, although the grape itself was known in Roman times, when it was called Puccino. Back then the wine didn’t have bubbles, and you can still find a non-bubbly “tranquillo” version in Italy today. The fizz arrived with the invention of secondary fermentation in the early 1900s.
Made in Prosecco?
The Glera or Prosecco grape is planted extensively in the King Valley in north-eastern Victoria, where Italian immigrants have turned to viticulture following the demise of the region’s tobacco industry. It flourishes in hilly terrain that’s not too dry, and needs a long summer. Australian Prosecco is also produced in other regions including the Adelaide Hills, Hilltops and Heathcote.
Geography or Grape?
When the Italians decided to ditch the name Prosecco for the grape variety and to apply it to the region where it’s grown, the EU insisted that producers outside the region (including in Argentina, Romania, Brazil and Australia) stop calling their wine Prosecco. Australian producers of the variety are determined to fight them. After all, they started planting the vines back in 1997, well before the name change. Negotiators are still struggling to balance Australian interests against the potential trade benefits of caving in to EU demands.
Straight Up or Spritzed?
Prosecco is popular as an apéritif, served very, very cold in a champagne flute. But it’s also an essential part of the original Bellini cocktail (poured over peach purée) and the Spritz Veneziano, aka the Aperol Spritz. To make your Spritz, combine three parts Prosecco with two parts Aperol, top with one-part sparkling or soda water and garnish with a slice of orange.