If you want to get the most out of your food and wine pairings, or to simply enjoy a good bottle of vino, having a good background sure helps with the selection process. With a cellar of options and a multitude of brands for you to browse on, the task can be dizzying even before blood alcohol levels hit the limit! So, for those who wish to broaden their taste options and are willing to open their palate to more sophisticated selections, let’s take a stroll down the Italian sparklers!
To start, there are 4 major types of sparkling wines that originated from Italy. These include Prosecco, Lambrusco, Franciacorta, and Asti Spumante.
You might have taken a sip of Prosecco before and confused it for champagne. But, it is technically not your favorite bubbly. This is a common misconception because what is known as Italy’s most popular sparkling wine is also as bubbly and tasty as champagne. The likeness is uncanny as it hits the mouth, but the price and the process make the difference because Prosecco is a lot cheaper, and it goes through an entirely different process.
Champagne vs Prosecco
To straighten things out, let’s start with their origin. Champagne is from France, while Prosecco is from Italy. Champagne is made with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes, while Prosecco is squeezed out of Prosecco (also known as Glera) grapes. Champagne is produced using the traditional method, while Prosecco undergoes a more affordable process called the “Tank Method”.
Even though they can have quite the similarity in flavor, if you scrutinize it enough you would find certain nuances that are unique to each. Proseccos taste slightly sweeter than traditional Champagne, and this is actually an advantage because it is far less likely to leave you with a nasty hangover the next morning.
Prosecco has a tendency to give fruity and floral aromas due to the grape. Champagne gives a cheese rind-like flavor because it is aged longer with the yeast particles. When it comes to differentiating the two based on their bubbles, you would notice that Champagne bubbles are finer, persistent, and sharp as a result of the bottles aged under high pressure. Prosecco bubbles are less persistent and they are lighter, frothy and spritzy.
Champagne will always have its special qualities that will give you a bang for your buck, but if you want something cheaper, Prosecco comes in a close second.
Note: Not all Prosecco wines are bubbly. In fact, there are three different levels of bubbliness for this wine: spumante (the bubbliest), frizzante (the second-most bubbly) and tranquillo (as the name implies, it is tranquil as it is void of any bubbles).
Prosecco Food Pairing
Due to its sweeter taste, Prosecco wines – particularly the ‘brut’ styles – shine best with cured meats and Asian dishes, like sushi or Thai noodles. Sweeter or extra dry variations go well with light sponge cakes, macarons, sweet soufflés, and parfaits.
The Classical Age poets and writers dub this wine as a bitter-tasting grape, although the Lambrusco grown today are a bit milder. As an Italian sparkling wine, it is not as well-known as others, like Prosecco or Spumante but it is also an interesting variety.
A Lambrusco wine can be a sparkling red or a sparkling rosé that is meant to be drunk young. This fizzy red is often regarded as an underrated variety, but if you take the time to savor the layer of flavors, you’d be pleasantly surprised with what it can reveal to your palate.
Literally means “lively”, this is the common thread that describes Lambrusco wines. This is largely due to the carbonation which is either frizzante (semi-sparkling) or spumante (fully sparkling). Nowadays, most Lambruscos are created the same way as Proseccos by undergoing secondary fermentation in pressurized tanks before it is bottled.
What is most notable about this type of sparkling Italian red is that it comes with bright acidity and a nose-tingling fizz with hints of dark and tannic fruit flavors. Since it is native to a land of rich and tasty dishes like charcuterie and creamy kinds of pasta, the wine’s acidity is perfect for achieving that balance.
Depending on the alcohol amount and the tannin, Lambrusco can meld well with a wide assortment of dishes. When picking the right kind for a family barbecue or a romantic dinner, it helps that you know the different labels. For example, Secco is for dry, Amabile is for medium sweet, and Dolce means sweet dessert wine.
Did you know that Lambrusco is also considered a good everyday wine? Experts say that having a bottle ready will always save you when entertaining should somebody drop by. It is low on alcohol content (around 8%), which means that it can be a perfect dinner drink – with or without company!
Tip: Lambrusco is best served chilled. To get the best value, let it cool around 12-15 degree Celsius. A little too warm might destroy and alter the complexity of the layered aroma bouquet. When the alcohol evaporates too fast, it reduces the perky fruit flavor which the wine is most popular for.
This sparkling wine hails from the province of Brescia (Lombardy) and boasts a DOCG status since 1995. This means that the wine producers followed the strictest regulations to produce the wine. It is made in the same way as Champagne and Cava, and it can’t be released until 25 months after harvest.
This method of creating sparkling wine is the same as methodé champenoise in Champagne, which is considered the highest quality technique. This process can give you fine creamy bubbles that are nuanced with flavors of brioche and lemon zest. Compared to that in Champagne, this Italian sparkling wine gives richer layers of flavor due to the warmer atmosphere of the region where it is produced.
This wine is made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Blanc which provide its champagne-like flavor but with a slightly softer acidity. It is a perfect party drink with its mass of bubbles. Once it hits your palate, it delights your taste buds by its toastiness and nuttiness with a dry finish. Generally, it is a more complex wine compared to the other variety in this list, but along with that also comes a higher price tag.
Prosecco may offer a light and fruity taste which also provides great value, but it is Franciacorta that is the Italian sparkling wine that can equal Champagne.
Due to its distinct dryness, Franciacorta is perhaps the most versatile drink at the table. It is great as an aperitif and complements beautifully with a variety of dishes. Its rich and creamy taste will go well with rice, risotto, pork or stewed chicken. It also shines best with seafood, either raw or cooked.
Asti (Asti Spumante)
This is a sparkling white Italian wine that is considered as one of the country’s sweeter wines – sweeter than Prosecco. It is made from white Moscato grapes in the province of Asti. It gives really grapey flavors and low alcohol content (usually around 5-8%).
Asti is the town that supplies the grapes, while “Spuma” actually means foam. This wine is characteristically light yellow in color and is sweeter than Champagne.
Asti Spumante goes well with sweet desserts, like pies or a fresh platter of sweet fruits! It is even considered a perfect summertime drink because it is light and sweet. It should also be served chilled, around 41 degrees Fahrenheit.
Tip: Best to serve this drink in a tall, thin glass to preserve its bubbles.
Are you leaning towards some Italian tonight? Whether you are toasting to something special or just enjoying a quiet night alone, every day is worth a sparkle! The Standish has a selection of Italian sparkling wines for every mood and occasion. Come and visit the store at 02-33 today!