My last pick was an expensive Champagne, so this week I’m highlighting a lighter, easy-to-drink $15 Prosecco, the Italian fizz that’s skyrocketed in popularity. In a lineup of a dozen examples, the gulpable non-vintage Nino Franco Rustico Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, with its soft bubbles, fresh green apple and flower scent and tangy citrusy flavors really stood out.
Don’t think of Prosecco as poor man’s Champagne. Its character is completely different, with none of the edgy acidity and layered complexity that are Champagne’s hallmarks. Fresher is better. In Italy, it’s the national aperitivo, something to sip anytime, and its uncomplicated appeal fits particularly well with the spirit of the holidays. I plan to keep several bottles in the refrigerator to pull out for low alcohol sustenance while trimming the tree, as a pick-me-up while wrapping presents or to welcome unexpected guests bearing gifts. Put out a plate of olives and prosciutto, pull the cork and you have a party.
Prosecco is made from the Glera grape variety, which was traditionally called Prosecco. The wines come from the hilly vineyards northwest of Venice; the best use grapes grown in the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene zone, which was boosted to Italy’s top-quality classification D.O.C.G. two years ago.
Nino Franco, a winery that’s existed for nearly a century, is in the Valdobbiadene area on steep hillsides, where the wines are more floral and fragrant. Third-generation winemaker Primo Franco makes six Proseccos, including two expensive single vineyard bottlings. Rustico is the versatile entry level, not too expensive to use in cocktails. The classic, of course, is the Bellini, made with white peach juice. But my current favorite is the Aperol Spritz, a mix of the bubbly and Aperol, a Campari-like bitter aperitif. Its reddish color makes the drink just right for this season.
Zester Daily contributor Elin McCoy is a wine and spirits columnist and author of “The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste.”