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Olympic sparkler

06 July 2012


I WAS fortunate enough to be invited to two weddings recently: the first was a Roman Catholic "society" one in Virginia; the second was a C of E "village" event in Wiltshire. They had one thing in common - the sparkling wine that we drank for the toasts, Prosecco.

It is interesting that each of the three most popular sparkling wines of the moment takes its name from a different aspect of its creation. Champagne is named after the region in which it is produced; cava from the way it is produced; and Prosecco from the grape from which it is made.

The popularity of Prosecco has increased exponentially over the past three years or so. The reasons for this are mainly price, and taste. Because the secondary fermentation that creates the bubbles in the wine takes place in large stainless-steel tanks, the cost of production is considerably less than for either cava or champagne. As for the taste, this generally has a hint of sweetness, and the austerity that one generally expects from champagne is lacking.

Reputedly, the best wines come from the two villages of Valdobbiadene and Conegliano, and they can add their name to that of the grape. They also have the DOCG status, the highest rating in the Italian appellation hierarchy. A third village, Cartizze, produces Prosecco Superiore di Cartizze. This sells at a distinct premium in price, but, so an American colleague tells me, tastes no better. Frizzante (semi-sparkling) and still wines are also made from the grape, which is also known as the Glera.

Majestic seems to be the leading advocate of Prosecco this summer. It has five wines, priced from £7.99 for the Prosecco Corte Alta NV (if you buy two bottles) to the Prosecco La Marca Superiore 2010 DOCG Valdobbiadene, reduced from £16.99 to £14.99. Others I have tasted include the Prosecco DOC Zardetto NV (M&S, £11.99), and Valdo Oro Puro Prosecco Superiore Valdobbiadene NV, from Waitrose (£12.99).

There is no doubt that Prosecco is a welcome addition to the range of celebratory wines, and it might be a good idea to stock up with some bottles to celebrate Britain's successes in the Olympics.

During my visit to the United States, I had one sleepless night when, in my mind, I compared grape varieties to teams in the English football leagues. There are some, such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Sauvi-gnon Blanc that might be considered as permanent fixtures in the premier division.

Others, such as Pinot Grigio, have scrambled up to achieve that status, and there are others again, such as Vermentino, that languish in provincial leagues.

Has Prosecco arrived yet, or is it still on an upward path? What do we hear now of its national colleague, Lambrusco, which not so long ago was riding high? The international success of Prosecco was created in the US, where fashionable wines seem to come and go. I hope that there is a future for this wine in the range of sparklers on offer. In these times of austerity, cheaper alternatives as sources of gaiety are always welcome.

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