Three Prosecco quality levels
Prosecco is the sort of wine that most people don’t think too much about – they either sip it straight at parties or use it as a base for cocktails such as Spritzer, Bellini or Mimosa. It’s a refreshing and relatively inexpensive wine that most of us take for granted. We don’t talk about or try to track down interesting labels. We just drink it. Quite a lot of it according to a few local Prosecco importers.
Is all Prosecco equal? I managed to track down 28 samples of Italian Prosecco. They ranged in price from NZD $15.99 to NZD $55.99 and spanned three denominations: Prosecco DOC, Prosecco Superiore DOCG and the exalted Superiore di Cartizze DOCG.
Superiore di Cartizze DOCG
Superiore di Cartizze DOCG is Prosecco’s sweet spot. This exalted 107-hectare area of vineyards is reputed to have the highest price per hectare for any Italian vineyard. The Consorzio recently introduced five subzones within Cartizze, which may have the effect of driving vineyard prices even higher. Cartizze is so exalted that it, ironically, doesn’t need to mention the word ‘Prosecco’ on wine labels.
I had one wine from Cartizze in the tasting. The 2015 Villa Sandi Vigna La Rivetta Cartizze DOCG Brut has an RRP of NZD $55.99, way ahead of the next most expensive wine at NZD $32 and well ahead of the average price of NZD $24. It lived up to its reputation, though perhaps not as emphatically as its price suggests. The wine showed impressive concentration and fruit ripeness with nicely layered complexity.
Prosecco Superiore DOCG
Wines bearing this denomination can only be made in Treviso province of Veneto on the hills between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. This hilly region is difficult and expensive to farm. It totals 6,586 hectares.
My tasting included nine wines from Prosecco Superiore DOCG. Prices ranged through a fairly narrow band from NZD $24.99 to NZD $32. More pronounced fruit and silkier texture distinguished this group of wines from the next denomination, Prosecco DOC.
It’s worth paying the small premium for a wine such as the 2015 Col de Salici Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut (NZD $26.95) unless you plan to use it to make a Prosecco cocktail
An area of around 20,000 hectares, mostly on low-lying plains in the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions. I was surprised to learn that Prosecco may include up to 15% of other permitted varieties including pinot blanc, pinot gris, chardonnay and pinot noir (presumably for rosé).
18 of my 28 samples were from this denomination. Their prices ranged from NZD $15.99 to NZD $24. The overall standard of this group was better than anticipated and fairly consistent. Some were a little coarse, perhaps due to skin contact or from being a little heavy-handed when pressing the skins, but even the worst of these were within acceptable limits. My top value wine was the Canti Prosecco DOC Extra Dry 2016 (NZD $16.99), which scored 90 points.