Prosecco sales are on fire, which is hardly surprising, given the wine’s bright, friendly flavor profile and the moderate pricing on most bottles. Italy’s sexy, la dolce vita image doesn’t hurt, either.
But Italian bubbly encompasses so much more than prosecco. So if your tastes run to Italian during this holiday season, here are some suggestions.
We’ll start with prosecco, of course. There are loads of choices, but I find a lot of them to be a little dull and uninspiring. So I was really happy to taste the ultra-fresh and flavorful 2017 Bosco del Merlo Prosecco Brut ($17). It offers racy flavors of citrus and apple, accented by a wet stone note.
Much less well-known are the wines of Trentodoc, from the mountainous Trentino region in northeastern Italy. The wines are made in the metodo classico, the traditional method used in Champagne. And, as is the case with Champagne, chardonnay and pinot noir are the primary grapes; pinot meunier and pinot blanc are also allowed.
One of the leading producers of Trentodoc is Ferrari (no relation to the car), owned by the Lunelli family. The company’s “classic” bottling is the non-vintage Ferrari Trentodoc Brut ($27), which is 100 percent chardonnay. It’s toasty and finely textured, with lively white fruit and a hint of brioche. It’s not cheap, but it’s a fine value.
Good lambrusco is underappreciated in the U.S. If you’re old enough, your opinion may have been adversely influenced by the sweet, much-advertised Riunite Lambrusco (“Riunite on ice”) of the 1970s. But the best lambruscos are dry to just off-dry. Lambrusco is actually a family of related red grape varieties. Hold the ice.
One excellent lambrusco producer to look for is Cleto Chiarli. The non-vintage Cleto Chiarli Vecchia Modena Premium Lambrusco di Sorbara Brut ($16) displays a pretty pink color and brims with racy raspberry fruit and some floral notes. It’s a juicy, refreshing wine that pairs well with food.
If lambrusco isn’t offbeat enough for you, there’s the non-vintage Bibi Graetz Bollamatta Rosé ($26), a sparkling sangiovese from Tuscany. (The name is Tuscan slang for “crazy bubbles.”) The wine has a pretty rose-gold color, lively red fruit and fine bubbles.
Another good Italian bubbly is Franciacorta, which, like Trentodoc, contains grapes similar to those of Champagne and is made in the traditional method. Excellent producers include Ca’ del Bosco and Bellavista. I also love moscato d’Asti, but I haven’t included it here because its sweetness sets it apart.