ALISTAIR GIBSON: Vogue for prosecco leaves me fizzing with excitement
This country has always been one of the biggest consumers of sparkling wine, and even though post-Brexit sales have slipped the UK is still the number one export market for Champagne.
However, the last few years have seen the rise and rise of sparkling wines from outside of Champagne, the new fashionable fizz is prosecco and English sparkling wine.
Prosecco has enjoyed such a meteoric rise to fame it has become almost a byword for sparkling wine itself.
Last year the UK drank 2.5 times more prosecco than the Italians.
Produced in Italy in the regions of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Guila, north of Venice, prosecco is predominantly made from the glera grape variety, which somewhat confusingly used to be known as prosecco, hence its name.
Unlike Champagne, prosecco is generally produced using the charmet method, whereby the secondary fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks as opposed to actually in the bottle that you purchase it in, making the process of prosecco production much cheaper.
Prosecco can come in spumante (fully sparkling) or frizzante (semi-sparkling) styles and, unlike Champagne, is best drunk young.
The bubbles are relatively light and the wine is known for its fruity and flowery character.
There is, it has to be said, a certain amount of cheap and cheerful prosecco on the shelves.
But there are some lovely wines that in many ways are the very essence of summer fizz.
Perhaps one of the most surprising wines I’ve tasted over the last few months is Freixenet Prosecco DOC (Ocado £12).
It’s surprising because Freixenet is one of Spain’s leading producers of cava and now seems to be branching out into the prosecco market, recognising perhaps that cava is not quite as trendy?
Aimed at the more premium market, it comes in a bottle that will certainly catch your eye.
The wine itself works pretty well – a bouquet of green apples and citrus blossom, followed by crisp citrus flavours and just a hint of sweetness – it is tailor-made for wedding receptions.
Ombra Di Pantera Prosecco Superiore Brut Millesimato DOCG (ombradipantera.com £24.99) has just been launched in the UK and aims to show just how good prosecco can be at the top end.
It’s very fresh with a fine bead of light bubbles, floral green apple and a touch of honey on the nose followed by lovely balance on the palate with a really pleasing dry finish, it certainly slips down all too easily.
I’ve written about the excitement which is being generated by English sparkling wine before in this column, and it seems there are more and more producers appearing with really high quality fizz all the time.
When wine suppliers start offering wines under their own label you know that it’s much more than just a flash in the pan and The Wine Society’s Exhibition English Sparkling Wine NV (The Wine Society £21) is proof in point.
Made for The Wine Society by Ridgeview on the Sussex downs, in the traditional method, this is a blend of various vintages and this really fabulous fizz offers great value for money.
A very fresh bouquet with notes of apple and freshly-baked biscuits, the mouth is very precise with green apple acidity and a touch of honey before a long finish.
There is real complexity here, a wonderful example of English sparkling wine.
n Alistair Gibson is proprietor of Hermitage Cellars, Emsworth. Call (01243) 431002 or e-mail [email protected]