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Prosecco is fast replacing champagne as the bubbly of choice. Perhaps it has been something to do with the economic situation of the last couple of years, but once people encounter this Italian beauty they seem happy enough to stick with it. Protected by European regulations, Prosecco may only be produced in the Conegliano and Valdobbiadene areas of Veneto, the region due north of the city of Venice. Here the climate and Adriatic Sea makes their presence felt. Such is the growing esteem of Prosecco as a really good fizzy white wine, available at a reasonable price, it has been further protected by being newly awarded full DOCG status. (Protected Designation of Origin)

Taking its name from a village, Prosecco can be found near to Trieste. At the head of the Adriatic, this north-east corner of Italy has been a free port, part of Austria, then Yugoslavia, before returning to Italian control in 1954. The history of the Prosecco vine is very much older. Pliny the Elder praised this grape, referring to it in Latin as vinum pucinum. Today Prosecco ranks 13th, out of a total of 2,000 varieties grown in that country. The grapes ripen later than most others, which probably explains why it is largely restricted to one Italian region and only a few other places in the world. About 5% is bottled as non-sparkling wine, known as Prosecco Calmo and Prosecco Tranguillo, but is rarely exported. It is the sparklers that matter.

Quite unlike champagne, Prosecco is produced by using the Charmat method, the essential secondary fermentation taking place in stainless steel tanks. There is no fermentation in the bottle. Prosecco Spumante will have been subjected to a thorough secondary fermentation, consequently being a little more expensive. A wine labelled Prosecco Frizzante will stop producing bubbles quite soon after being poured into the glass. This is clearly a case of paying your money and making your choice. Be careful with Dalmation Prosecco. Although just over on the other side of the Adriatic, not far away, this wine is made from dried grapes and will be really sweet, almost sherry-like.

Sparkling Prosecco should be light, soft, and with an apple-like crispness. Classically it will exhibit both a spicy tang and a pleasantly bitter aftertaste. Prosecco from Treviso, in the south of Veneto, will be delicately dry. Further north, around Conegliano, the wine will be sweeter. In all cases, Prosecco should be well chilled and served as an aperitif. Because of the precise conditions required by Prosecco vines, only the Dalmation area of Croatia and Romanians make wine from this grape. In the New World, Argentina, Brazil and, of course, Australia are trying to cash in on the ever growing popularity of Prosecco. When buying wine for Hogmanay, take time, look at the labels for the all important Italian DOCG. And have a happy New Year.

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