Although served cold, Prosecco sales are white hot—world wide exports up 67% in three years, sales topped $1.84 billion last year.
Riding that wave, Italy produced their biggest crop ever for Prosecco—467 million bottles in 2015. Production has tripled since 2009 and plantings now include more than 50,000 acres.
All that is happening in northeastern Italy, which is the only place Prosecco can legally be made. And thereby hangs a tale.
Like Champagne, Prosecco gets its name from a location—the village of Prosecco near Trieste in the far northeastern coast of Italy.
For many years, Prosecco was the name of both the grape and the sparkling wine. As Prosecco took off, however, Italian winemakers realized they had to do something to protect their brand, and in 2009 convinced the European Union and other bodies to restrict the use of the name to wine made in nine Prosecco provinces spanning the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions.
What to do about the grape, however? It is one thing to assert label restrictions based on location, but what if makers outside the region use Prosecco grapes and just label the bottle as a varietal? The answer: change the name of the grape from Prosecco to glera. So, today, Prosecco wine is made in a specific region of northeastern Italy using a minimum of 85% glera grapes.
Glera (née Prosecco) dates to Roman times. Pliny the Elder (AD 23–79) may have praised it as vinum pucinum.
The meteoric rise of Prosecco popularity coincides with—some would say is the driving force behind—the dramatically increased sales of sparkling wines. Prosecco is wonderfully priced, delicious as an aperitif, pairs with range of foods. No wonder, at 2,000 years old, it is the current Next Big Thing in wine.
• Ruffino Prosecco NV: Delightful, classic Prosecco; 100% glera grapes. $13-14
• Torresella Prosecco Extra Dry NV: Fresh, fruity, nice acidity, extra dry; 100% glera grapes. $14-16
• Casa Vinicola Zonin Prosecco White Edition NV: Lemon zest, peach, tropical fruit notes; made by Italy’s largest family-owned Prosecco winery (established in 1821); includes 9% pinot bianco grapes. $14-17
Last round: What do you get the woman who has everything? Another glass of Prosecco.