Italian Sparkling Wines from Around the Boot
While Prosecco is undoubtedly Italy’s most famous sparkling wine, it is by no means the only one available to customers. Italy actually has six areas that are renowned for their sparkling wines. That said, sparkling wine is made all over the country, from the Northernmost region to the Southernmost, sparkling wines are made from both indigenous/native Italian grapes or international ones such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Let’s take a look, region by region.
Prosecco itself has a couple of different denominations. First, there is the Prosecco DOC category, a designation created in 2009 for wines that can be made in five provinces in the region of Veneto, and four provinces in Friuli Venezia Giulia. All Prosecco DOCs are made from at least 85% Glera, an indigenous white Italian grape with the remaining 15% made up of Verdiso, Bianchetta Trevigiana, Perera, or Glera Lunga and/or international varieties like Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir with white vinification only.
Prosecco is made using the Charmat method where secondary fermentation takes place in a tank or autoclave. Prosecco DOC comes in a variety of styles and sugar levels including Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra dry, Dry, or Demi-sec.
Although it is rare, some Prosecco DOC is made as still wine, while others are made using the traditional method with secondary fermentation in the bottle. Moreover, Prosecco DOC is meant to be drunk young and enjoyed chilled.
Since 2021, there is also a Prosecco DOC Rosé designation which is made from Pinot Noir and Glera and comes only in the Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Brut, or Extra Dry styles.
Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG is a different wine made in 15 municipalities in the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene area. Also made from Glera, it comes in the following sweetness levels: Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry, and Dry.
The DOCG has a category called Rive, which refers to specific vineyard sites. There are 43 Rive, each of which has its own characteristics and expresses the terroir of its area. The vineyards are very steep and the harvest here is all done by hand and is very difficult.
There is also a Cartizze DOCG for wines made only within the 107 hectares of vineyards in Valdobbiadene, specifically from San Pietro di Barbozza, Santo Stefano, and Saccol areas.
Lastly, a version of the DOCG called Sui Lieviti which many people know as Col Fondo, is the historic and traditional way Prosecco was made with fermentation in the bottle using the ancestral method which leaves the wine cloudy and with loads of texture. These wines are only sold in the Brut Nature version or without sugar.
A further designation for Prosecco in the Veneto can be found in Asolo DOCG. Asolo Prosecco DOCG was also designated as a DOCG in 2009. These wines are from 18 municipalities around the town of Asolo and are known for heroic viticulture on very steep hills on the slopes of Monte Grappa in the Treviso province.
Five more areas in Northern Italy are famous for their sparkling wines. In Lombardy, near the town of Brescia, exquisite wines are made from a blend of four grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, and a local variety called Erbamat in the Franciacorta DOCG area near Lago d’Iseo. Franciacorta is always made in the traditional method with secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle. Franciacorta must age a minimum of 18 months before release and can be found in a variety of sweetness levels: dosage zero, extra brut, brut, extra dry, sec, and demi-sec.
There is also a Rosé version of Franciacorta produced, and a special designation in Franciacorta called Saten which is bottled under lower pressure at 5 bars rather than the 6 bars for Champagne. This version of Franciacorta is usually Brut.
A second region for sparkling wines in Lombardy is Oltrepò Pavese near the city of Pavia, about an hour and a half from Milan. The sparklers here are made in the traditional method as well with secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle. They are made largely from Pinot Noir which has been growing in the region since the 1800s. Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico DOCG, Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico Rosé DOCG as well as Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico Cruasé DOCG are three designations of sparkling wines made in this area.
In Trentino, another traditional method of sparkling wine can be found called Trento DOC. These sparklers from the mountains are created using a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Trento DOC comes in three styles: Brut with 15 months of lees aging before release, Millesimato with 24 months of lees aging before release, and Riserva with 36 months of lees aging.
Another smaller sparkling wine designation in the Northern region of Italy can be found in Piedmont and is known as Alta Langa DOCG. This wine is made using the traditional method and is always at least 90% Chardonnay and Pinot. These sparklers come in brut nature (zero dosage) to extra dry versions only. There are only 1.3 million bottles of this wine currently made every year but it is an up-and-coming region for sparkling wine.
Piedmont’s most famous sparkling wine and one that many people know are familiar with is Asti Spumante. This sparkling wine has been around for decades and is made with the Moscato Bianco grape in the Asti method or tank method in autoclaves. The wine is chilled to stop fermentation from starting and then raised to begin fermentation but stopped when the alcohol gets to 7-9.5% with a minimum of 3.5% g/l residual sugar. These wines tend to be lower in alcohol and much sweeter. There are also Moscato d’Asti DOCG wines that have only 4.5-5.5% alcohol and are usually considered frizzante (sparkling) rather than fully sparkling because of fewer bubbles.
Not to be forgotten are the wonderful wines made from Lambrusco grapes in Emilia Romagna. These red sparkling wines are usually frizzante and not considered to be a spumante and largely are made with the Charmat or tank method, although a few producers use the traditional method of secondary fermentation. Dosage levels here are usually from Secco to Amabile and on to Dolce. These wonderful sparkling wines are great food wines with lower alcohol levels and tend to come from 7 Lambrusco varieties of the 60 available. The most well known of the Lambrusco varieties are Salamino, Sorbara, and Grasparossa.
While these are the official designations for sparkling wines, all throughout the country sparkling wines are made with indigenous or native grapes of international ones. When visiting Le Marche, try a sparkling wine made from Passerina or ones made from Vermentino in Sardinia, or even Aglianico when visiting Campania. Sparkling wines can be found all over Italy, just ask for them on your next trip or with your next order.