Prosecco (Rick Zullo’s email)

Ciao Mike

Everybody knows about Prosecco, which comes from the Veneto region and is made from white grapes called, not surprisingly, “Prosecco,” or sometimes “Glera.”

Most Prosecco wines are meant to be enjoyed young and fresh, so don’t think that you should look for a particular “classic” vintage the way you might with a French Champagne.

The most famous area for this wine is Valdobbiadene (Italian pronunciation: valdobˈbjaːdene), in the hills north of Treviso, if you want to impress your dinner guests.

Prosecco is produced in either the fully sparkling (spumante) or lightly sparkling (frizzante) styles. Prosecco spumante, which has undergone a full secondary fermentation, is the more expensive variant.

Depending on their sweetness, Proseccos are labelled as:  

  • “Brut” (up to 12 grams per liter of residual sugar)
  • “Extra Dry” (12–17 g/l)
  • “Dry” (17–32 g/l).

Asti (or Asti Spumante) is a sparkling white Italian wine that is produced throughout southeastern Piedmont, but is particularly focused around the towns of Asti and Alba. It is made solely from Moscato Bianco grapes and therefore it’s one of the sweetest sparkling wines of Italy. Its inherent sweetness, frothy bubbles, and low alcohol content make it well suited to be paired with dessert.

Unfortunately, it has never been considered a prestigious wine because most Asti Spumante consumed abroad is of low quality, giving it an undeserved bad reputation. When in Italy, give it a try and you might acquire a newfound respect for this underrated bubbly.

Fragolino has an interesting history, and this little wine is somewhat of a troublemaker for a few reasons. First of all, its appeal is sneaky and can bewitch the unaware drinker with its strawberry-like aromas. Kind of like those silly wines that gave you your first hangover in high school. It is made from a dark, purple-skinned vine called Vitis labrusca, or what Americans might know as the Isabella grape.

Now here is where this wine might actually get you into some real trouble. Why? Because technically it’s illegal to sell Fragolino in Italy.  

You see, Vitis labrusca is historically blamed as the American grape variety that carried the phylloxera plague to Europe in the 19th century, destroying much of Europe’s wine producing vines. Later, American phylloxera-resistant rootstocks were subsequently imported back to Europe so that European vines could be re-grafted onto the resistant strains and resume their wine production. So now this wine is sort of the “vino non grata” in these parts.  

But if you’re feeling a bit frisky, go on, give it try! Just ask your local “vino sfuso” provider if he happens to have a personal stash.

(Note: While it is illegal to sell Fragolino in Italy, it is NOT illegal to produce it for personal consumption.)