Wine of the Week: Chilling out with prosecco

Well, it’s bound to be another typical July in Washington: Hot and humid.

Thousands of locals will mix and mingle with tourists this summer, all the while contending with traffic and sightseeing. Of course, this means being outside where it’s hot and sticky. It would certainly be nice to have a wine to rely on to help keep one’s cool on the outside, as well as on the inside.

Fortunately, Washingtonians can take a break from the heat with a wine that has been helping wine-savvy Italians cool down for decades: Prosecco.

Prosecco isn’t just a wine, it’s also a grape varietal and a place. In short, it is a white wine – usually sparkling — made from the prosecco grape which is grown in and around the village of Prosecco in the Veneto region of Italy, just a short one-hour drive north of Venice. The area is beautiful, with picturesque hillsides that are blanketed with vineyards and pristine rural vistas.

But Prosecco isn’t known just for the drama of its landscapes. The 12,000-acre region is well-suited to the production of sparkling wine.

The steep slopes of the hills between the communes of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene are well-drained; and the cool breeze off the Alps combined with the warm air blowing in from the Adriatic Sea, create an environment ideal for preserving the acidity and aromas in the grapes.

Prosecco takes full advantage of this gift by producing crisp, thirst-quenching and brisk wines that are made to be refreshing and light. But it is different from other sparkling wines, like, say, Champagne. For example, Champagne undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle, where it is in contact with the yeast for at least a year, imparting a “yeasty” or “baked bread” quality.

Prosecco, on the other hand, employs the Charmat method, named for the French oenologist who developed the technique. The secondary fermentation takes place under pressure in large, stainless steel tanks for a shorter period of time, which allows the wine to retain a fresher, fruitier personality, with lots of acidity and minerality that keeps it light and bright on the tongue.

Even though prosecco is great for keeping cool, it’s really heating up. Prosecco has enjoyed a sales spike in the United States over the last several years. One of the reasons for its rise in popularity is that prosecco is incredibly versatile. It’s great on its own as an aperitif, and it also plays well with spicier cuisine (Think Maryland crabs).

It’s even wonderful with sushi. But the one thing it is known for in its native Italy is that it is one of the few wines that pairs well with asparagus. So it’s perfect for this time of the year. But no matter what you pair with prosecco, make sure you serve it well-chilled.

If you’re hosting a summer party, prosecco is a great way to enjoy a wonderfully crisp, refreshing sparkling wine that will make your guests feel welcome. The Non-Vintage Martini & Rossi Prosecco DOC from Italy is perfectly balanced and aromatic with crisp citrus acidity supporting notes of apple, pear and fresh florals. Invigorating and playful, this newly DOC classified prosecco is beautifully versatile and can be enjoyed on its own or paired with Maryland crabs. $15

The Non-vintage La Tordera prosecco di Valdobbiadene from Veneto, Italy, is one of the best values in sparkling wine. Packed with wonderful acidity and structure, scents of lemon-lime fill the bouquet while flavors of apple and nectarine dominate the front of the palate. The crisp, refreshing finish features citrus notes and just a hint of pear and yeast at the very end. $20

A fun and delicious sparkler is the Non-vintage Armani Prosecco Brut from Vento, Italy. Made from the prosecco grape, this straw gold white wine is fermented on the lees in stainless steel tanks at cool temperatures and carbonated via the Charmat Methode. Scents of melon and citrus are found on the nose while flavors of green apple, nectarine and honeydew melon are carried across the palate on medium-sized bubbles. Just the right wine to “suit” your needs! $17

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