Italian Sparkling: Prosecco, Lambrusco, Moscato

Fizzy wines from Italy’s northern hills are crisp, refreshing, and just right for food.

Glera grapes at harvest at Contrada Granda
Glera grapes at harvest in Masottina’s Contrada Granda vineyard, Ogliano

Americans drink a lot of Prosecco, nearly four million cases each year, with annual growth in the mid double digits. Most of it is simple stuff, colorless and lightly citrusy—but sparkling, at least.

Nearly all Prosecco is made using the Metodo Italiano, or Charmat method, with its second fermetation taking place in a pressurized tank. These wines don’t earn the complexity of bottle-conditioned, traditional method sparklers, which age longer with more lees exposure, but they don’t earn the high price, either.

But Prosecco can be characterful. The grape, known these days as Glera, has a faint musky-floral personality that tops its citrus and stone fruit essence with shades of snappy bitterness. When grown in the heart of the Treviso hills, between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, the wine can earn DOCG status, and these wines, especially the vineyard bottlings, can be both expressive and elegant.

In early September, 2016, I visited Masottina, a producer in Ogliano, to stomp around their vineyards at harvest and taste their DOC and DOCG Proseccos. The photos here are of their Contrada Granda vineyard, sited on a slope that tilts southwest, smiling at the sun (and vice versa).

Glera is well suited to these hills, to their ancient soils of marl and clay tinted red with iron oxide. The hillsides are steep, but the grape itself is not hard to manage. “Glera, because it’s born here, has not so many diseases,” said Masottina winemaker Federico dal Bianco, who, with his two brothers and father, Adriano, manages production.

Wines grown in vicinity of Valdobbiadene, said dal Bianco, tend to be more flowery, with more minerality or delicacy, while those grown near Conegliano offer more body and fruit. Still, site and aspect are big factors. “The body of the wine is made by the wind,” he said. Less wind? More sun? More body.

Notes on six Masottina sparklers are below. Only three are imported, but I’ve included them all to show what Prosecco in the right hands can do.

The Adami Proseccos, meanwhile, span DOC and Valdobbiadene DOCG bottlings, including one single-vineyard, vintage-labled wine (all are imported into the U.S.). Brothers Armando and Franco Adami manage the estate and make the wine, having inherited the steep, south-facing vineyard in Valdobbiadene from their grandfather, Abele, who purchased it in 1920.

Fleshing out the list of recent tastings are Proseccos from Caposaldo and Bele Casel. This last takes a less common form, col fondo, which is bottle-conditioned and not disgorged. I’ve mixed all of these brands together, ordering them instead from DOC to single-vineyard DOCG—from simpler to more complex.

Meanwhile, Americans don’t drink a lot of Lambrusco. It’s a pity. This frothy red from Emilia Romagna is fizzy, tannic, and darkly fruity, with a curious astringency that makes it great with food. Sometimes found in slightly sweet versions—and for many years found only in far too sweet versions—there are now examples that are dry, crackly, and interesting. Like Prosecco, it’s typically made by the Charmat process, but the three I’ve reviewed here are sparkled in the bottle for yet more interestingness.

And finally, for your delectation: a bubbly dessert Moscato from Asti, in Piemonte—to end on a truly sweet note.


NV Caposaldo Prosecco DOC

A wine that strikes a balance between ripeness and typicity. Its tranquil perlage offers a fresh, mountain-air fragrance, while the body exudes agreeable peachiness with a grassy finish.
11.5% abv | 12 g/L sugar | $16 | Imported by Kobrand


NV Adriano Adami Garbèl Brut Prosecco Treviso DOC

Fragrant of citrus and yellow peaches steeped in herbs. Its quiet, spumy mousse delivers a pop of acid, fruit, and salt, while snappy notes of fresh tarragon and savory and a scattering of minerals add dimension.
11% abv | 12-13 g/L sugar | $15 | Imported by Dalla Terra


NV Masottina Prosecco Treviso Brut DOC

Extremely pale, nearly colorless, with a fine bead and a sweetly floral nose. Lemon, grass, and briny herbs bloom in the mousse, and its prickly finish is polished by keen acidity.
11% abv | 6–10 g/L sugar | $15 (tasted at the winery) | Imported by Gonzáles Byass, USA


NV Masottina Extra Dry Prosecco DOC

Confusingly, Extra Dry Prosecco has more sugar than Brut, making it feel rounder, fleshier, and more floral. Here, gingered petals, spicy herbs, and a glittery mid-palate add levity.
11% abv | 6–14 g/L sugar | $15 (tasted at the winery) | Imported by Gonzáles Byass, USA

Glera grape harvest, Contrada Granda Harvest underway in Contrada Granda

NV Masottina Brut Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG

Its active bead delivers a fragrance of flowers and stone fruit, while a snap of wet stone keeps things serious. Good complexity.
11.5% abv | 6–10 g/L sugar | $15 (tasted at the winery) | Imported by Gonzáles Byass, USA


NV Masottina Extra Dry Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG

Again, the Extra Dry version of this wine is sweeter, yielding a richer, creamier flavor on its gingery mousse. They’re otherwise the same wine, but Masottina makes both because, said dal Bianco, “People say they want Brut, but they actually want sugar.”
11.5% abv | 6–14 g/L sugar (tasted at the winery) 


2015 Masottina Contrada Granda Brut Le Rive di Ogliano Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG

The single-vineyard wine is stonier, even monumental, with a quiet minerality and savory finish. It’s is a food wine, and dal Bianco suggested pairing it with something delicate, like fish crudo.
11.5% abv | 6–7 g/L sugar (tasted at the winery) 


2015 Masottina Le Rive di Ogliano Extra Dry Prosecco Conigliano Valdobbiadene DOCG

This is a big, creamy, fruity wine, with abundant ripe citrus, peach nectar, and candied grapefruit and orange peel. It’s an aperitif wine that dal Bianco suggested pairing with fish or mushroom risotto.
11.5% abv | 6–16 g/L sugar (tasted at the winery) 

Glera grapes in Conegliano A picking bin of Glera grapes

NV Adriano Adami Dei Casel Extra Dry Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG

The Adami Extra Dry has a spumy mousse with flavors of peach, ripe pear, and yellow apple. Grassy herbs and yellow citrus pith add bite.
11% abv | 15-17 g/L sugar | $18 | Imported by Dalla Terra


NV Adriano Adami Bosco di Gica Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG

A salty, stony wine adorned with yellow citrus rind and pith, peaches, and sweetgrass. Good depth derives from fruit, earth, and herbs.
11% abv | 9-10 g/L sugar | $18 | Imported by Dalla Terra


2015 Adriano Adami Col Credas Brut Rive di Farra di Soligo Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG

A vintage-labeled, single-vineyard wine. Its tiny, lacy bead crackles with wet stone and non-fruit, and its dewy lemon finish exits in a blaze of lime peel. It feels serious, mostly about elegance and restraint.
11% abv | 4 g/L sugar | $22 | Imported by Dalla Terra


2013 Bele Casel Asolo Colfondo Prosecco DOCG

Col fondo wines contain leesy sediment, which makes the body cloudy and very savory. This one’s quiet, with stony aromatics that complement toasty biscuit and brioche, almond and almond extract, and suggestions of forest honey and hazelnuts.
11% abv | <1 g/L sugar | $20 | Imported by Petit Pois Corp.


NV Medici Ermete I Quercioli Secco Reggiano Lambrusco DOC

Shifting to red, here a blend of Lambrusco Salamino and Lambrusco Marani with second fermentation in bottle. Its quiet mousse is shot with bitter blackberries and a suggestion of banana peel, while its astringent, drying finish feels cleansing.
11% abv | 14 g/L sugar | $14 | Imported by Kobrand


NV Medici Ermete I Quercioli Dolce Reggiano Lambrusco DOC

A blend of Lambrusco Salamino and Lambrusco Marani with natural bottle fermentation. It’s almost not fizzy, but the body is jazzed with ripe dark black raspberry and black cherries. Good with pizza!
8.5% abv | 50 g/L sugar | $14 | Imported by Kobrand


2015 Medici Ermete Assolo Reggiano Rosso DOC

A blend of Ancellota and Lambrusco Salamino with natural bottle fermentation. It’s dark red and moderately astringent, with suggesions of rosemary, fresh and macerated strawberries, banana, and cherry-berry.
11.5% abv | 14 g/L sugar | $20 | Imported by Kobrand


2015 Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Gresy La Serra Moscato d’Asti DOCG

A honeyed Moscato with lily of the valley, white peach, nectarine, and dried apricots. Sweet but not syrupy despite the high sugar content. Terrific with honeyed desserts.
5% abv | 131 g/L sugar | $16 | Imported by Dalla Terra


All wines were samples for review.
GranVia Società e Comunicazione sponsored my travel to Treviso in September 2016.

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