It sparkles like champagne, but Prosecco is not champagne — nor does it pretend to be. Other than bubbles, this gentle, appealing, easy-drinking sparkling wine from northeastern Italy has little in common with its sophisticated cousin. Prosecco is a little lower in alcohol (11 to 12 degrees), a lot lower in price (the most expensive costs $15 to $20), rarely bone-dry, usually nonvintage, brimming with inviting fruit flavors and ready to drink when you buy it. And Italians are often ready to drink it, downing a glass the way Americans down a Coke or Pepsi.
Made from the Prosecco grape grown in the steep hills of the Treviso province, about 30 miles north of Venice, this light and lively bubbly is filled with hints of pear, melon, apricot and peach. The best of them carry the name Prosecco di Valdobbiadene — and one of the absolute best of the best is Maschio Dei Cavalieri. Light-bodied, lemon-yellow and refreshing with lively, long-lasting bubbles, it offers a fruit basket of inviting aromas dominated by pear.
Equally inviting is Nino Franco Rustico. Rounder and slightly more fuller-bodied, it enchants with a perfume reminiscent of a flower garden, a perfume that follows through to its long, satisfying finish.
Montesel also produces a fine Prosecco with great fruit in the nose, followed by a well-balanced, slightly drier taste. One of the relatively few brut Proseccos comes from Bisol Desiderio, an interesting wine that offers the ripe fruitiness of Prosecco and is clean, well focused and dry to the taste.
Other Proseccos worth a try are Adami, a pretty, upper-class sparkler whose grapes come from a single vineyard, and Astoria, which is bright, playful and charming.
When and how to enjoy Prosecco? Chill it well. Sip it as an aperitif. Drink it with light seafood, especially shellfish. Partner it with a mild cheese and fresh fruit. Play with it on a lazy afternoon. Down it with Sunday brunch. And definitely, in this month of St. Valentine, fill a flute with it at a romantic, candlelit dinner. Prosecco, in short, is a year-round, all-time pleasure.
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