‘Tis the season to be jolly, and no matter what your mood, the bubbly will improve it! So since this is the ITALIAN Grapevine, make sure the bubbly that graces your New Year’s table is something from the Bel Paese: Spumante – that’s the Italian word for bubbly, but don’t jump to conclusions! It doesn’t have to be sweet, and it doesn’t have to come from Asti!
This year, you’ve got more choices than ever, since taking the grape and putting it through the Metodo Classico, or champenoise-style of making wine, has become all the rage. By the way, any grape will do – it doesn’t have to be Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier or Pinot Blanc! Even Nerello Mascalese from Mount Etna (Sicily) makes a super bubbly! Pigato from the northwestern region of Liguria does too. That means top to bottom, the whole boot is frothing like a racehorse at Belmont.
Franciacorta: My personal favorite, this denomination was put on the map by the Berlucchi family, but extends to other well-known houses like Bellavista and Ca’ del Bosco. This DOCG wine should be rivaling champagne, and does in the imbibing experience. Only problem is: un-pronounceable.
Trento: Unfortunately, this bubbly does not have immediate name-recognition (like, should we drink Champagne or Trento tonight? Duh…) but there are brands with immediate brand-recognition, like Ferrari (I don’t care what you say, Formula 1 did help this brand make a bigger splash. Oh, and speaking of A Bigger Splash, have you seen the Luca Guadagnino film with Ralph Fiennes and Tilda Swinton, set on Pantelleria? No? Required viewing. You’ve got homework.) The brands Rotari or Cesarini Sforza may ring a bell too. This is a DOC wine.
Asti: Aromatic and sweet, Asti Spumante was perhaps the first sparkling Italian wine to go international. Prosecco was not even a twinkle in Santa’s eye when this region was pumping its most famous brew through the international pipeline. Clearly something very different from French champagne, this Italian classic carved a niche for itself. Made from the Moscato grape, it is a DOCG wine made with the Martinotti method (also called the Charmat method, but it was invented by the Italian Martinotti). The biggest difference? This wine ferments in big steel tanks.
Prosecco: And here the donkey falls, as they say in Italian. Prosecco is also produced with the Martinotti method, which is one of the reasons it costs less. Made from a grape called Glera, Prosecco has become an international superstar. But don’t be taken in, all that bubbles is not Prosecco!
Vernaccia di Serrapetrona: This is the ‘All About Eve’ come-from-behind winner of the year. What a sweet surprise! This DOCG (what, you’ve never heard of it and it is a DOCG? Shame on you!) from the Marche region of Italy is not only bubbly, it is red (dark, dark red) and sweet. Sounds like Lambrusco, you say? You couldn’t be farther from the truth. Moreover, this wine has nothing at all to do with Vernaccia di San Gimignano (the dry white from Tuscany – see my piece from last May). In fact, this wine’s grape variety is so dark, it is also known as Vernaccia nera, or black Vernaccia.
So, Buon Anno! Happy New Year! A toast from Italian Grapevine to you: Cin-cin!