PROSECCO | A Venetian Love Story

Written by Alisa Bowen for Good Taste Magazine

I remember it precisely. The evening was perfecto!  I had just returned from an operatic serenade in a gondola up Venezia’s main canal, lit only by the late summer’s moonlight. As the gondolier lifted me from the velvet-lined boat, my other hand was gingerly filled with a tall, sparkling glass.  Was it the stars, the moonlight, the opera, or the air of Italia that filled this fluted glass with such magical diamond fizz? Who was this bold new suitor and refreshing nectar inviting me into revelry?

veniceProsecco was the name of this new enticing love affair, and I was hooked on this flavor of Venetian heaven. Prosecco is an Italian white wine, generally a dry or extra dry sparkling wine, normally made from Glera (“Prosecco”) grapes. Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) prosecco is produced in the regions of Friuli Venezia Giulia and Veneto in Italy, and traditionally in the regions  near Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, in the hills north of Treviso.

It is known as the main ingredient of the legendary Bellini cocktail, and has more recently gained popularity as a less expensive substitute for Champagne.  Originating in Venice, the Bellini is an alchemist’s mixture of sparkling prosecco and sweet peach purée. The cocktail was invented in 1943 by Guiseppe Cipriani, founder of infamous Harry’s Bar in Venice. Due to its unique pink hue, which reminded Cipriani of a color used in a 15th century Venetian painting by artist, Giovanni Bellini, the name Bellini was born. The original recipe was made with a bit of raspberry or cherry juice to give the drink the signature pink glow.

Traditionally served in a champagne flute, this sparkling Italian wine is oft overlooked by its more prominent French sparkling companion—Champagne. It is generally ripe with notes of apricot skin, peach blossom and a slightly floral component without being overly fruity or off-dry. It is a perfect palate cleanser or refreshing beverage in the tropical Cayman climate due to its easy-drinking personality and effervescence. It is also delicious with lighter dishes such as fruits, salads and shellfish which are particularly pleasing and easily compliments our Cayman menus. Prosecco evokes summer and tropical heat. Beyond being known as festive libations and worth every little penny they generally cost, Proseccos tend to fullfil every time and place imaginable: at the beach watching a sunset, in someone’s backyard at BBQ picnic or simply lounging by the pool.

proseccoMost do not realize Italy produces more variations of sparkling wine than any other country in the world. Their spumantes vary from light; off-dry Proseccos to classic Franciacorta. Italian sparkling wines are varied, tasty, and often surprisingly—quite affordable. Prosecco has all the flirty fun of sparkling wine, so well suited to shaking off the cares of the day, without the seriousness of Champagne method styles. Its charming orchard-fresh fruit character is simply friendlier on first sip, especially true in the absence of food.

Recently, we have seen an undeniable growing trend in the restaurant industry showcasing Italian Proseccos —even creating entire brunches and menus around them and  touting ‘bottomless Prosecco’ with the meals.

Prosecco rocks with food. The fresh profile of these wines works remarkably well with a wide range of foods. In general terms, almost any type of Prosecco is fantastic with antipasti regardless of sweetness level, including everything from olives to aged cheeses to roasted peppers to tough items like marinated artichokes. Brut bottlings are fantastic with freshwater fish such as trout. Extra dry Proseccos are particularly wonderful with sushi and sashimi. Dry styles (including most bottlings of Cartizze) are wonderful with plain dry pastries or semi-sweet fruit cakes like Panetone. However, these wines are emphatically not limited to dessert applications, as they can be wonderful with sweet meat crustaceans like lobster; aged cheeses, and even raw oysters. This last match seemed implausible to me, but I have put it to the test, and it works!

At present, the world is gaga for Prosecco. Sales of the dry Italian bubbly, which typically sells for $12 to $18, are even defying the recessionary slump that sucked the wind out of most other wine categories, including Champagne.

Prosecco’s flute runneth over. This infectious sparkling Italian love affair shows the bubble is not bursting! In 2009, its sales in the U.S. rose by an astounding 32% over the previous year, and the stellar growth continued strong throughout 2010 and well into 2011.

Whatever the scenery here on Cayman, sipping a flute of sparkly Prosecco always magically transports me back as an effervescent souvenir to my first Italian love affair.

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  • © 2012-2013 Alisa Marie Coccari All Rights Reserved

    All writing is copyright of AlisaCoccari.com Permission to use any such content will be both requested/granted in writing. Photography will only be used with written permission from the photographer and/or source. Alisa Marie Coccari has also been published under the nom de plume, Alisa Bowen.
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