Taste The Future Of Prosecco In These 10 Bottles (2023)

Whether you’re toasting a friend’s engagement or sipping a Mimosa at brunch, there’s a high probability that the sparkler in your glass is Prosecco. The Italian fizz is the world’s most popular sparkling wine, selling more bottles annually than Champagne and Cava combined. And while Prosecco is best known as a fresh and fruity crowd-pleaser with an inexpensive price tag, that’s far from the whole story.

Prosecco comes from northern Italy. At the base of the quality pyramid is Prosecco DOC, sparklers largely produced in the low-lying valleys of Italy’s Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions. At the top end is its DOCG regions, smaller areas of distinct climate and terroir, where strict quality controls dictate how the wines are made. There are two Prosecco DOCGs, one in the small commune of Asolo, and another — Conegliano-Valdobiaddene — that’s a collection of 15 different communes lying between the two namesake towns.

In the hilly, terraced DOCG areas, Prosecco has been made since Roman times. Back then, the wines were bottled still or a gently sparkling frizzante style. The assertively bubbly Proseccos we know today didn’t arrive until the late 19th century, with the invention of the Charmat method, where the wine goes into stainless steel tanks for its secondary fermentation. That innovation ultimately led to Prosecco becoming the world’s top-selling sparkler, with more than 700 million bottles made across its DOC and DOCG quality-designated regions each year.

But for Elvira Maria Bortolomiol, who leads a key producers’ association, economic success is not enough. The Prosecco winegrowing region she represents was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019, raising the stakes around environmental and oeno-tourism initiatives for the region. “We have a responsibility to evolve, to create a strong and sustainable future for Prosecco,” says Bartolomiol, president of Consorzio of Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG.

The good news for bubbly buffs is that Prosecco is evolving — and for the better. What was once a cheap and cheerful pick is becoming a multilayered category with nuanced and characterful wines — all of which is relatively affordable to enjoy.

These are the five trends moving Prosecco forward, along with top wines that exemplify each innovation:

Col Fondo, the “Pét-Nat” of Prosecco

While Prosecco typically gets its sparkle in a pressurized tank (Charmat method), a growing number of winemakers are producing ancestrale method Prosecco. Also called “col fondo” (with the bottom) and “sui lieviti” (on the lees), this is a more traditional way of making Prosecco, where secondary fermentation happens in individual bottles.

Unlike regular Prosecco, these Proseccos are not disgorged, meaning that the wine still has a fine sediment of spent yeast cells, or lees, in it. If you’ve ever had a pét-nat, you get the idea. The wines have a slightly cloudy appearance and gentler fizz than regular Prosecco. They’re rustic and bone dry, with layers of texture and flavor that lean more to crusty bread and yogurt than to fruit.

In the DOCG region, these wines are called sui lieviti, a recent designation that’s only been available since 2019. But the style is hardly new. “It’s a new way to see Prosecco, but really it’s our origin,” says Edouardo Buso, winemaker at Guia. Although the production of col fondo Prosecco is small, these wines are driven both by consumer demand for more traditional, artisanal products, and by a new generation of winemakers. “It’s a way for the younger generation to express their creativity,” says Fabrizio Adami, fourth generation winemaker at Adami.

Adami “Col Fondo” Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore ($20)

The Adamis are not only benchmark producers, they’re the OG of col fondo Proseccos. In fact, they’ve been making col fondo continuously for more than a century. This bottling starts out with fine perlage and apple blossom aromas, moving into pear and yogurty flavors with a pale, cloudy appearance. It’s a welcoming introduction to a less familiar Prosecco style.

Guia, Incipit Sui Lieviti Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore ($19)

Hand-crafting is the philosophy at the family-run Guia, where the expertise honed from four generations informs all aspects of the operation. The wines are fresh and energetic, with this bottling showing a marked seashell minerality. There’s a fun textural interplay between tart apple and yogurt notes and a buttery creaminess, all elevated by smooth effervescence.

The Rise of Prosecco Brut Nature

Another recent innovation in Prosecco wine-making is the rise of Prosecco "brut nature" and “no dosage” wines. This style of Prosecco has no added sugar — typically less than three grams of sugar per liter — so they are drier and crisper than traditional Prosecco. With the wine's natural acidity more pronounced, these wines tend to give a sensation of enhanced minerality. They may be made using the Charmat method, or the ancestrale, where the wine is bottled while fermentation is still going on, and the trapped carbon dioxide provides the bubbles.

“This particular style is increasing in the international market,” sought after by younger consumers and in restaurant settings, Bartolomiol says, noting how food friendly the wines are. Additionally, this innovation comes at a fortuitous time, piggybacking on the trends of lower-sugar diets and the popularity of natural wines.

Le Vigne de Alice, Doro Nature Prosecco Superiore Brut ($28)

This no-dosage sparkler comes from Doro, a single vineyard in the Valdobbiadene region that is farmed organically. The wine is dry and minerally with notes of white flowers, apple, and crusty bread. Cinzia Canzian, the winemaker-owner, is focused on making low-intervention, natural, elegant expressions of Prosecco — it’s a wine that will get you excited about Prosecco.

L'Antica Quercia, A - Ancestrale Brut Nature, Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore ($38)

Here’s to hoping that more of winemaker Claudio Francavilla’s exciting wines become available in the U.S. They’re a hit at stylish restaurants in Italy, but few of them make it stateside. He farms organically and biodynamically, making expressive, singular expressions of Prosecco. This bottling is crunchy and fresh, with notes of citrus and wild herbs, and creaminess from the extended lees contact.

A New Focus on Sustainability

Prosecco wine has seen a surge in sustainable practices over the past five years that range from reducing chemical inputs in the vineyards to lessening energy consumption. The Prosecco-making area of Conegliano Valdobbiadene was the first major vine-growing region in Europe to ban the pesticide glyphosate, in 2019, according to Bartolomiol. Additionally, many Prosecco winemakers throughout northern Italy have implemented eco-friendly techniques such as using solar panels for energy, reducing water waste, and using organic fertilizers.

One of the largest Italian wine producers, Santa Margherita, is using its scale to reduce its carbon footprint. The wine brand has been making Prosecco since 1952 — longer than its iconic Pinot Grigio. In addition to working with its growers to reduce chemical inputs in their vineyards, Santa Margherita makes its own glass bottles in an adjoining facility to its bottling line, using a minimum of 85% recycled glass. “That really helps to shrink our carbon footprint as we're not shipping empty bottles from one part of the world to another, creating pollution in the process,” says Kristina Sazama, wine educator for Santa Margherita USA. Its production facility has been energy self-sufficient since 2012, powered by solar panels and energy from a company-owned biomass facility. The company also has reduced its water usage by 40% over the past four years by upgrading its bottling line and cooling tanks, Sazama said.

Santa Margherita Brut Prosecco Superiore di Valdobbiadene ($23)

Since introducing its Prosecco in 1952, Santa Margherita has been sourcing its grapes from many of the same family growers. “Working with our growers, we’ve introduced a lot more sustainable ways of working in the vineyards,” Sazama says, including training and tools to transition to mechanical weeding instead of herbicides. This wine shows a delicate touch. It’s crisp and refined, with elegant bubbles, lively acidity, and ripe pear aromas.

Bartolomiol Ius Naturae Organic Brut Prosecco Superiore ($15)

This 100-year old company is run by a team of four sisters with a deep commitment to sustainability. The company regularly audits its carbon footprint, working to reduce it at every stage of production, and has converted to organic farming. It is also involved in international aid projects supporting public health and female entrepreneurship. This wine starts with floral aromas, evolving into white peach and green apple flavors on the palate, with fine and persistent mousse and a crisp finish.

Introducing Luxury Prosecco

While Prosecco is primarily known for its approachability and affordability, a new trend is emerging that elevates the sparkler to new heights. Enter the realm of luxury Proseccos hailing from the DOCG regions. Many of these are single-vineyard bottlings, intended to reflect the character of specific vineyards or specific communes, in contrast to more traditional Proseccos that blend together the grapes from multiple vineyards overa a range of areas.

These single-vineyard wines include the “grand cru” vineyard of Cartizze, the most celebrated single vineyard, which is divided into small plots owned by more than 100 families. Then there are some 43 “premier cru” communes called Rive, a term that refers to the very steep hillsides that are characteristic to the region.

“These areas are on steep slopes,” Bartolomiol explains. “The terroir gives exceptional minerals and elements to the wines, giving particular characteristics.” According to Bartolomiol, it’s the combined influences of elevation, well-drained soils, and exposure to sunlight in these prized vineyards that contributes to especially desired characteristics like vibrant acidity, complex flavors, and refined, elegant bubbles and textures. These are the pinnacle of Prosecco, typically commanding upwards of $50 a bottle, and overdelivering for that price.

Bisol Cartizze Prosecco Superiore di Cartizze Brut ($50)

The Bisol family’s winemaking legacy dates back more than 500 years in Valdobbiadene. These days, the company produces a range of organically farmed Prosecco wines from some 20 vineyards, including the renowned Cartizze hill. This wine is wholly unique — a richer, more intense version of Prosecco with layers of flavors (apple, wild herbs), a fuller body, and fine perlage.

Val D’Oca Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Brut Rive Di San Pietro Di Barbozza ($63)

Val d’Oca is a consortium of small growers focused on quality Prosecco production. This wine comes from grapes that are hand-harvested in the hills of San Pietro di Barbozza, a small plot within Valdobbiadene. Apple blossoms and yellow pear lead on the nose. The palate shows lively acidity and orchard fruit flavors, with creamy mousse and a memorably long finish.

Prosecco Joins the Rosé Craze

Given Americans’ thirst for pink wine, no one was surprised when the Prosecco DOC Consortium approved the release of a rosé Prosecco in 2020. But what did surprise some was the sheer volume of this new style: In just three years, Prosecco Rosé has boomed, with more than 70 million bottles now being produced a year.

To use the Prosecco Rosé DOC label, the wine must be made by blending white Glera grapes (85% or more) with a small percentage of Pinot Noir, resulting in a light pink hue. The wines must use the Charmat method of secondary fermentation, and the wines must age for at least 60 days in the tanks to develop more flavor. The character of these wines is fresh and crisp, with hints of red fruit and more structure coming from the Pinot Noir. In comparison to other sparklers, like pink Champagne or Cava, these wines tend to be lighter and fresher. They’re a versatile crowdpleaser for any warm-weather event.

La Jara Prosecco Rosé Brut ($20)

The Marion family has a deep legacy in the Conegliano area, having farmed their vineyards since 1891. They transitioned to organic farming in 1999, and farm according to biodynamic principles. This sparkler is the color of pink lemonade — and just as refreshing. It’s bright and fresh, with orchard fruit aromas and abundant fizz.

Ruggeri Argeo Prosecco Rosé ($18)

Paolo Bisol runs this winery with his children Giustino and Isabella. The family’s viticultural legacy traces back centuries in the region, though the Ruggeri winery was established in 1950. This pale pink Prosecco is elegant and silky, with vibrant acidity, fine perlage, and aromas and flavors of white peach and red currants.

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