When it comes to the sparkling wines of Italy, there is a lot more on offer than just Prosecco. While Prosecco is certainly the most well-known Italian sparkling wine, there are other varieties that are just as delicious and worth exploring, from the crisp and refreshing Franciacorta to the sweet and fruity Asti Spumante.
If you’re a fan of sparkling wines, you owe it to yourself to explore the world of Italian bubbles beyond Prosecco. Not only will you discover new and exciting flavors, but you’ll also gain a deeper appreciation for the artistry and diversity of Italian winemaking.
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Italian Sparkling Wine
While Prosecco is undoubtedly the most well-known Italian sparkling wine, served at nearly every brunch around the world, Italy has a long history of producing high-quality sparkling wines using different methods, grapes, and flavors throughout all the regions in Italy.
Italian sparkling wines are known for their aromatic, fruity, and floral notes, which make them perfect for celebrations, special occasions, or just a casual evening with friends.
Italian sparkling wine is produced using two main methods: Metodo Classico (the traditional method) and Charmat Method (the tank method).
- Metodo Classico is similar to the Champagne method, where the second fermentation takes place in the bottle, giving the wine its characteristic fizziness and complexity.
- Charmat Method involves the second fermentation taking place in a pressurized tank, resulting in a lighter, fruitier, and less complex wine.
Italian sparkling wines come in different styles, ranging from dry (brut) to sweet. Brut sparkling wines are the most popular, with their crisp, citrusy, and sage-like flavors. Sweet sparkling wines are less common, but are perfect for those who prefer a sweeter taste. They are made using grapes like Moscato or Brachetto, which give the wine honey, apricot, and white flower aromas.
Italian sparkling wine can be made using different grape varieties, including white, red, and aromatic grapes. White grapes like Glera, Chardonnay, and Pinot Bianco are the most commonly used, while red grapes like Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo are used to produce sparkling rosé wines.
Aromatic grapes like Moscato and Brachetto are used to produce sweet sparkling wines that are perfect for dessert or as an aperitif.
Distinct Italian Sparkling Wines
Prosecco is often the first that comes to mind, but Italy has a wide range of distinct sparkling wines that are worth exploring. Here are some of the most notable ones:
Franciacorta is a sparkling wine made in the Lombardy region of Italy. It is made using the traditional method, just like Champagne, and is aged for a minimum of 18 months. Franciacorta wines are typically drier and less fruity than Prosecco but lack the complex minerality of Champagne. When seeking out a premium Italian sparkling wine in the spumante style, look for Franciacorta DOCG on the label.
Lambrusco is a sparkling red wine that is produced in the Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy regions of Italy. It is made using the Charmat method, which involves a secondary fermentation in a pressurized tank. Lambrusco is known for its refreshing acidity and fruity flavors, making it a great choice for pairing with pizza and other Italian dishes.
Asti is a sweet sparkling wine made in the Piedmont region of Italy. It is made using the Charmat method and is known for its floral and fruity aromas. Asti is a great choice for those who enjoy sweeter wines, and it pairs well with desserts like fruit tarts and sorbets.
Trentodoc is a sparkling wine made in the Trentino region of Italy. It is made using the traditional method and is aged for a minimum of 15 months. Trentodoc wines are known for their crisp acidity and complex flavors, which are influenced by the region’s mountainous terrain. Look for Trentodoc DOC on the label to ensure you’re getting a genuine Trentodoc wine.
Regions of Sparkling Wine Production
Italy is a country with a long tradition of winemaking, and sparkling wine is no exception. There are several regions in Italy where sparkling wine is produced, each with its own unique style and flavor profile. Here are some of the most important regions for sparkling wine production:
Veneto is one of the most important regions for sparkling wine production in Italy. It is home to two of the most famous sparkling wine denominations in the country: Prosecco and Valdobbiadene. Prosecco is a light and refreshing sparkling wine that is perfect for everyday drinking, while Valdobbiadene is a more complex and elegant wine that is often compared to Champagne.
Piedmont is another important region for sparkling wine production in Italy. It is home to the Conegliano and Asti regions, which are known for their sparkling wines made from the Moscato grape. These wines are sweet and aromatic, with flavors of peach, apricot, and honey.
Trento DOC is a sparkling wine denomination in the Trentino-Alto Adige region of northern Italy. The wines produced here are made using the traditional method, the same method used to make Champagne. The region is known for its high-altitude vineyards, which produce wines with a unique mineral character and crisp acidity.
Lombardy is another important region for sparkling wine production in Italy. It is home to the Franciacorta denomination, which is known for its high-quality sparkling wines made using the traditional method. These wines are often compared to Champagne, with similar complexity and elegance.
Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna, and Friuli-Venezia Giulia
While not as well-known for sparkling wine production as some of the other regions, Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna, and Friuli-Venezia Giulia all produce sparkling wines of high quality. These wines are made using a variety of grapes and methods, resulting in a wide range of styles and flavors.
The Grapes Behind the Bubbles
When it comes to Italian sparkling wines, most people immediately think of Prosecco. However, there are many other grape varieties used in the production of Italian sparkling wines. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular grape varieties used in Italian sparkling wines.
Glera is the grape variety used to make Prosecco, which is the most famous Italian sparkling wine. Glera is a white grape that is grown primarily in the Veneto region of Italy. Prosecco made from Glera is typically light, crisp, and refreshing, with flavors of green apple, pear, and citrus.
Chardonnay is a white grape variety that is widely used in the production of Italian sparkling wines. Chardonnay is a versatile grape that can be used to make a wide range of styles of sparkling wine, from light and crisp to rich and full-bodied. Chardonnay is often blended with other grape varieties, such as Pinot Nero or Pinot Bianco, to create complex and interesting sparkling wines.
Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir)
Pinot Nero, also known as Pinot Noir, is a red grape variety that is used in the production of Italian sparkling wines. Pinot Nero is often used in blends with other grape varieties, such as Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco, to create complex and interesting sparkling wines. Pinot Nero adds depth and complexity to sparkling wines, with flavors of red fruit, spice, and earth.
Glera is the grape variety used to make Prosecco, which is the most popular Italian sparkling wine. Glera is a white grape that is grown primarily in the Veneto region of Italy. Prosecco made from Glera is typically light, crisp, and refreshing, with flavors of green apple, pear, and citrus.
Tasting and Pairing Suggestions
For a classic aperitif, you can’t go wrong with a flute of Prosecco Superiore or Cartizze. These sparkling wines are crisp, refreshing, and perfect for sipping before a meal. Prosecco Superiore is made from grapes grown in the hills of Valdobbiadene and Conegliano, while Cartizze is made from a small, prestigious sub-zone within the Prosecco Superiore DOCG. Both are known for their delicate bubbles and bright, fruity flavors.
If you’re looking for something to pair with dessert, try a sparkling wine made from red fruit. Lambrusco, for example, is a sparkling red wine from Emilia-Romagna that pairs perfectly with chocolate desserts. It has a slightly sweet, fruity flavor that complements the bitterness of dark chocolate. Another option is Brachetto d’Acqui, a sparkling wine from Piedmont that has notes of strawberry and raspberry. It pairs well with fruit tarts, pastries, and other desserts.
For appetizers and cured meats, try a Prosecco Rosé. This sparkling wine is made from the Glera grape and a small amount of Pinot Noir or Pinot Nero. It has a delicate pink color and a fruity, floral flavor that pairs well with savory snacks. It’s also a great choice for cocktails, as it adds a touch of elegance and sophistication to any drink.
Famous Producers of Italian Sparkling Wine
When it comes to Italian sparkling wine, Prosecco is undoubtedly the most well-known style. But did you know that there are many other types of Italian sparkling wine produced by famous wineries? Here are some of the most famous producers of Italian sparkling wine:
Ferrari is one of the most famous producers of Italian sparkling wine. Located in Trento, in the northern part of Italy, Ferrari produces high-quality sparkling wines using the traditional method. The winery’s flagship wine is the Ferrari Brut, a non-vintage (NV) wine made from Chardonnay grapes.
Ferrari also produces a range of vintage wines, including the Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore, a wine that has been aged for at least 10 years before release.
Ca’ del Bosco
Ca’ del Bosco is another well-known producer of Italian sparkling wine. Located in the Franciacorta region of Lombardy, Ca’ del Bosco produces a range of sparkling wines, including vintage and non-vintage wines. The winery’s flagship wine is the Cuvée Annamaria Clementi, a vintage wine made from Chardonnay grapes that have been aged for at least 7 years before release.
Istituto Trento DOC
Istituto Trento DOC is an association of wineries located in the Trento region of Italy. The association was founded in 1984 with the aim of promoting and protecting the traditional method of producing sparkling wine in the region. The association’s members produce a range of high-quality sparkling wines under the Trento DOC appellation.
Other Famous Producers
Other famous producers of Italian sparkling wine include:
- Nino Franco
- Santa Margherita
- Tasca d’Almerita
These wineries produce a range of sparkling wines, including Prosecco, Spumante, and Metodo Classico wines. Whether you’re looking for a light and fruity Prosecco or a complex and rich Metodo Classico wine, you’re sure to find a wine that suits your taste among the many Italian sparkling wines produced by these famous wineries.
The Sweetness Scale of Italian Sparkling Wines
When it comes to Italian sparkling wines, there is a wide range of sweetness levels to choose from. Understanding the sweetness scale can help you choose the perfect bottle to suit your taste. Here’s a breakdown of the different sweetness levels you can expect from Italian sparkling wines:
- Brut Nature/Zero Dosage: This is the driest sparkling wine you can find, with no added sugar. It’s a great option for those who prefer their wine to be less sweet.
- Extra Brut: This is another dry option but with a small amount of added sugar. It’s slightly sweeter than Brut Nature but still has a very dry taste.
- Brut: This is the most common sweetness level for Italian sparkling wines. It has a slightly sweet taste but is still relatively dry.
- Extra Dry: Despite its name, this sweetness level is actually sweeter than Brut. It has a noticeable sweetness but is still considered a dry wine.
- Dry: This sweetness level is a bit sweeter than Extra Dry, with a noticeable sweetness that is balanced by crisp acidity.
- Demi-Sec: This sweetness level is noticeably sweet, with a sugar content that is higher than Dry. It’s a great option for those who prefer a sweeter wine.
- Dolce: This is the sweetest option you can find for Italian sparkling wine. It has a very high sugar content and is often served as a dessert wine.
One Italian sparkling wine that is particularly known for its sweetness is Brachetto. This wine is made from the Brachetto grape, which is naturally sweet. It’s often described as having flavors of strawberries and raspberries and is a great option for those who want a sweet, fruity wine.
No matter what your preference is when it comes to sweetness, there is an Italian sparkling wine out there for you. By understanding the sweetness scale and exploring different options, you can find the perfect bottle to suit your taste.
The Terroir of Italian Sparkling Wines
Italian sparkling wines are heavily influenced by the terroir, or the environmental factors such as soil, climate, and topography, in which the grapes are grown. The northern regions of Italy, such as Piedmont, Veneto, and Lombardy, are particularly known for their sparkling wine production due to their cooler climate and ideal soil conditions.
The vineyards in these regions are often situated on steep hillsides, which can affect the flavor and quality of the grapes. For example, the steep slopes of the Valdobbiadene region in Veneto produce grapes with high acidity, which is ideal for making Prosecco.
In addition to the terroir, the concept of “rives” is also important in Italian sparkling wine production. Rive refers to a specific vineyard or area within a vineyard that is known for producing high-quality grapes. These areas are often designated on the wine label, indicating that the grapes used to make the wine come from a specific rive.
The proximity to the Alps also plays a role in the terroir of Italian sparkling wines. The cool air from the mountains helps to regulate the temperature in the vineyards, which can affect the ripening process of the grapes. This can result in grapes with higher acidity and more complex flavors, which can contribute to the overall quality of the wine.
Overall, the terroir of Italian sparkling wines is complex and varied, with many factors contributing to the flavor and quality of the grapes. Understanding the terroir and the influence it has on the wine can help you appreciate the nuances and complexities of Italian sparkling wines beyond just Prosecco.
Frequently Asked Questions
What makes Asti DOCG different from Prosecco?
Asti DOCG is made from Moscato grapes, while Prosecco is made from Glera grapes. Asti DOCG is typically sweeter and has a lower alcohol content than Prosecco. Asti DOCG is also produced using the Charmat method, while Prosecco can be produced using either the Charmat or traditional method.
What is the traditional method used to make Italian sparkling wines?
The traditional method, also known as the Metodo Classico, is the same method used to make Champagne. The wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle, creating bubbles and adding complexity to the wine. Franciacorta is an example of an Italian sparkling wine produced using the traditional method.
Which is considered the best Italian sparkling wine?
There is no definitive answer to this question as it is subjective. However, Franciacorta DOCG is often considered one of the best Italian sparkling wines due to its high quality and complexity. Other popular Italian sparkling wines include Lambrusco, Trento DOC, and Alta Langa DOCG.
Franciacorta DOCG is often compared to Champagne due to its production method and high quality. It is made using the traditional method, which creates smaller bubbles and adds complexity to the wine. Franciacorta DOCG is typically more expensive than other Italian sparkling wines and is known for its elegant and refined taste.
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Planning for an Italy wine trip? Here's more
Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited over 75 countries. Her work has been published in numerous guidebooks, websites, and magazines.