Over the last five years the UK has seen an explosion in popularity of Prosecco over it's often more expensive cousin Champagne. Twitter and Facebook went into melt down earlier this year when it was reported that there would be a national shortage, but how much do you know about this firm favourite?
I was lucky enough to be introduced to Neil Phillips, during my recent visit to Taste of London, who was leading classes on Italian Moments - The flavour of joy, showcasing Grana Padano PDO cheese & Prosecco DOC. He was welcoming enough to share a glass or two of Prosecco while talking me through what we should all look out for when choosing a bottle.
Where is it made?
Prosecco DOC is made using only the Glera grape variety. It's produced in North-Eastern Italy, in the Veneto & Friuli Venezia Giulia regions. Today there are more than 10,000 grape growers & 1200 producers of Prosecco DOC, producing in 2014 over 306 million bottles. The UK is the biggest importer of Prosecco, taking almost 29% of the total export market.
DOC is an acronym meaning Origin Controlled Designation. This represents a set of rules covering not only the area it can be produced in, but the method & standard of production. While it certifies the particular product's origin, it mainly guarantees it's quality and provenance.
What types are there?
Imagine going into a pub and asking the barman for a "
bottle glass of white wine" or a "pint of beer", without specifying the type! Yet I'm certainly guilty of ordering Prosecco without any idea of what sort is on offer.
There are three levels of "fizziness" Spumante - fully sparkling and the most produced; Frizzante - semi sparkling; and Tranquillo, which has no bubbles and is completely still.
There are also three levels of dryness, although Dry is actually the sweetest, followed by Extra Dry and finally Brut - with a full bodied flavour.
Tips for choosing
I asked Neil what his three tips were when choosing a bottle of Prosecco;
- "Look for the DOC mark" - It's easy to add DOC to a label, however truly DOC certified producers all add a security label to the neck of the bottle, as you can see on the picture below. This will give you confidence that you are getting the real deal.
- "Take time to read the back label" - Often the front label on a bottle of Prosecco will have very limited information on it. The back label, however will give you the perlage type (fizziness) and the dryness, along with confirmation of the DOC status. Often one producer may make a number of different varieties so it always pays to check before buying.
- "Look for the more expensive varieties" - This isn't just a marketing ploy! There are some fantastic smaller scale houses making excellent bottles of Prosecco. A standard bottle of Champagne will cost £20-£30, with a mid-range bottle being upwards of £50. Prosecco, however has a starting price point of £7 with an exceptional bottle easily found for £15. Marks & Spencer have a good selection of Prosecco on their website, from some of the less common producers.
Finally, I can confirm that there is no risk to the UK supply! Like most fruit crops you have highly productive years and less productive years as a natural cycle. The growers and producers prepare for this and hold plenty of stock to help get us through these leaner times. We can all rest easy, and relax with a glass on our hand - strawberries, or Grana Padano cheese a perfect accompaniment.
I learnt so much from chatting to Neil, it was a pleasure to meet him.
The next Taste of London - The Festive Edition is being held on 19th - 22nd November at Tobacco Dock. I'll definitely be making the trip up to London to go, not only to try the fantastic food on offer, but to chat to many more passionate producers & sellers.
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