Champagne can only carry this storied title if it originates from the Champagne region of France. In a similar vein Italy’s sparkling wine, Prosecco, is a controlled ‘designation of origin’ product (DOC) and can only be called that if produced within a specific region…

Insight Vacations takes a close look at this divine sparkling wine and unveils everything travellers (and quaffers of this tempting drink) need to know about Prosecco.

Lying between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea, the historic hill town of Conegliano is the epicentre of Prosecco production. Conegliano and the surrounding hills of the Veneto are a winemaker’s dream; protected from the harsh northern European climate by the Alps, this aromatic, Italian sparkling white wine has been produced here since Roman times.

Prosecco DOC may only be produced within this region according to approved practices and strict quality control. From Conegliano to Valdobbiadene, the Glera grape, from which Prosecco is made, grows in lush hillside vineyards that thrive due to the area’s cool climate. What’s more, a staggering 8 159 Prosecco wine estates and 269 sparkling wine producers are active here, proving that the thirst for Prosecco shows no sign of being quenched.

Roots, history and production

Besides its current popularity, Prosecco has a long and illustrious history, tracing its roots all the way back to ancient Rome. Some of the first references to this type of winemaking come from the village of Prosecco near Trieste, made using the juice of the Glera grape.

Subscribe to our Free Daily All4Women Newsletter to enter

By the 18th century, the region’s wine production had expanded, but it wasn’t until the 20th century that it spread to the low-lying areas of Veneto and Friulu. It was here that Prosecco’s second fermentation processes were developed, a technical innovation that led to the evolution of the wine to as we know it today.

Country scene from the Prosecco ‘highway’, near Conegliano, Italy. Copyright: bornin54 / 123RF Stock Photo

Different from Champagne

This second fermentation process is also what sets Prosecco and Champagne apart. With Prosecco, the second fermentation occurs in large steel tanks, whereas with Champagne, the second fermentation takes place in the bottle. Unlike Champagne, Prosecco doesn’t usually age well, and should be enjoyed young while its fruity flavours are still bold and bright.

It’s not all about the bubbles

As in Roman times, Italy’s most famous sparkling wine is still made from the Glera grape, a semi-aromatic variety famous for its floral and fruity flavours. Many of us don’t realise that Prosecco can be a still, semi-sparkling, or full sparkling wine. Visit one of the vineyards around Conegliano and you may well be offered a glass of Prosecco tranquillo, or still Prosecco. This is because Prosecco DOC can be either Frizzante (semi sparkling) Spumante (fully sparkling, and the most widely produced,) or Tranquillo.

What to pair it with

Prosecco is typically paired with traditional Italian antipasti, and it works well as a fresh and fruity accompaniment to appetiser dishes. Drier varieties are perfect with salty prosciutto ham, plump olives, fragrant focaccia bread and mild cheeses, while sweeter Proseccos can be paired with sponge cake desserts, Italian biscotti, sweet soufflés and parfaits.

Prosecco is typically paired with traditional Italian antipasti, and it works well as a fresh and fruity accompaniment to appetiser dishes.

Bellini’s baby

Delicious served chilled as an aperitif, Prosecco also lends itself remarkably well to a wide range of cocktails. Classic Italian tipples that make use of this versatile sparkling wine include the famous Bellini, a blend of peach juice and Prosecco, as well as the popular Aperol Spritz, a blend of Aperol liqueur, Prosecco and soda water which is served with plenty of ice and a slice of orange.

Make like a true Venetian and find yourself a table near St Mark’s Square, the perfect place to enjoy a chilled glass of Prosecco as the sun sets over the Rialto Bridge and the locals take their evening passeggiata.

***

If you’re interested in learning more about the gastronomy of Northern Italy and trying a glass of Prosecco Tranquillo then book a place on Insight Vacations’ Country Roads of Northern Italy before 29 September and get the preview special of R32 850 per person sharing. Travel in 2018 at 2017’s prices and get an additional 10% off. Call them on (011) 280 8400 or visit www.insightvacations.com