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Guide to Italian Sparkling Wines

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A quick guide to the country's best sparkling wines – perfect for a summer evening or an excuse for celebrating. The best of the bubblies come from the north of Italy, but they are popular all over the country. Italians will drink sparkling wines for any occasion, and especially as an aperitif, served chilled or made into a cocktail, such as the Bellini, the famous Venetian drink that has taken the world by storm. Here is a quick guide on knowing your spumante from your prosecco.

Spumante is a fine, pale straw-coloured sparkling wine, the best known of which comes from Franciacorta in the province of Brescia in the north of Italy. Fermented in the bottle, in the so-called “classic method,” and made with Chardonnay, Pinot Nero and Pinot Bianco grapes, it is produced similarly to a Champagne, although Italians will of course tell you theirs is better!

Spumante is produced all over the country, but if you want to try the best, go for Franciacorta. Prosecco, on the other hand, has its name protected much like Champagne, with DOCG status and is produced solely in the Veneto region.

Prosecco is a dry, sparkling wine, made from grapes of the same name, but unlike spumante and Champagne, it is not fermented in the bottle but is produced using the Charmat method where the wine is fermented in steel tanks. Prosecco comes from the Veneto region, namely from Conegliano and Valdobbiadene in the province of Treviso, not far from Venice.

Prosecco was probably produced back in the Roman times, and is one of the oldest grape varieties around, meaning Italians have been enjoying this glass of bubbly for centuries. It is a crisp, aromatic wine, fresh, light and best drunk as soon as possible while it is still young. As Prosecco is relatively low in alcohol, it makes a perfect aperitif, or pre-dinner drink.

Although prosecco is often served on its own, you can order it mixed as well. Here are a few of the most common ways you can order it mixed in a cocktail to join the locals sipping their aperitifs:

Bellini: prosecco and peach juice, a summer time favourite.
Rossini: prosecco and fresh strawberries, a perfect spring time cocktail.
Mimosa: prosecco and orange juice
Tintoretto: prosecco and pomegranate juice, best in September and October when the fruit is mature
Spritz: aperol or campari, prosecco and soda water
Negroni sbagliato: martini rosso, campari and prosecco, a take on the Florentine negroni cocktail.

You can also at times find prosecco as an after dinner treat and palate-cleanser in the form of a Sgroppino: lemon sorbet and vodka with a touch of prosecco.