What Is Prosecco Wine?

Man pouring Prosecco

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Prosecco is Italy's answer to champagne—a white sparkling wine that's available from dry to semi-sweet. Prosecco has protected status to ensure quality and is only produced in the Veneto region in northeast Italy. The bright and effervescent wine features flavors of melon, pear, and honeysuckle, and is lovely for toasts, sipping, pairing with foods, and making cocktails. It is relatively low in alcohol.

Fast Facts

  • Regions: Veneto, Italy
  • Origin: Veneto, Italy
  • Sweetness: Semi-sweet to dry
  • Color: Pale gold
  • ABV: 10–13.5% 

Prosecco vs. Champagne

Prosecco and champagne are both sparkling wines with protected status, but there are a few key differences. Prosecco can only be made in Veneto, Italy, while champagne is only produced in the Champagne region of France. Champagne gets its bubbles during a final fermentation inside the bottle, producing a fully sparkling wine with minuscule bubbles. Prosecco referments in pressurized tanks before being bottled and producing a wine that can be sparkling, semi-sparkling, or still. Overall, champagne is more labor-intensive and costly to make, making the wine itself more expensive. Champagne's reputation adds to the cost; however, prosecco is more popular in the U.S.

Taste and Flavor Profile

Prosecco is medium-bodied and since it is a white wine, low in tannins. A whiff will reveal aromas of apple, pear, and citrus. On the palate, prosecco's high acidity is balanced out by its effervescence. Flavors of green apple, peach, lemon peel, pear, tropical fruit, cream, and floral notes like honeysuckle are common. Many proseccos can also have a yeasty characteristic similar to a lager beer. Light-bodied and bubbly, prosecco is a crowd-pleaser.

Prosecco is available in three different levels of sweetness:

  • Brut: The driest option and most common; 0–12 grams per liter of residual sugar
  • Extra Dry: Slightly sweeter than brut; 12–17 grams per liter of residual sugar.
  • Dry: The sweetest, but not sweet enough to be a dessert wine; 17–32 grams per liter of residual sugar

How to Taste Wine

Follow a few steps when tasting wine to ensure you have the best experience:

  1. Look: Look at the wine, examining the color, bubbles, and opacity through the glass.
  2. Smell: Unlike most wine, don't swirl sparkling wine too much to preserve the bubbles. Take a whiff, taking in your first impressions of the aromas of the wine.
  3. Taste: Take a small sip and let it roll around your tongue. Note the effervescence, acidity, sugar, and alcohol content, then move on to more in-depth tasting notes (fruit, spice, herbs) and finally the finish.

Grapes and Wine Regions

For many years, the predominant grape used to make prosecco was also named prosecco. To help protect the region's denominazione di origine controllata (controlled designation of origin) or DOC status, the grapes were renamed "greta." Greta is a white wine grape that enjoys a summer growing season on sunny slopes and mineral-rich soil before being harvested in the fall. Well-tended with relatively low yield, they can produce fragrant wine.

Prosecco must be made with at least 85 percent greta grapes. The remaining wine can be made using indigenous grapes like Verdiso and Bianchetta or with international white wine grapes like chardonnay. After the grapes are harvested and go through an initial fermentation, prosecco is refermented in giant pressurized steel tanks using a technique called the Charmat method. This is what gives most prosecco its signature bubbles. Sugar, called a dosage, is added before bottling to adjust the sweetness of the wine.

Prosecco has a few special DOCG designations (Denominazione di origine controllata e garantita or "controlled and guaranteed designation of origin”) based on location and regulations known to produce quality wines. These include proseccos labeled "superiore" along with their location such as Valdobbiadene and Asolo.

Food Pairings

Prosecco is effortlessly paired with a wide range of foods. The sparkling wine pairs especially well with antipasto like prosciutto and other cured meats, salty cheeses like asiago, stuffed mushrooms, and nuts like almonds. The dry white wine gets along well with fresh seafood dishes and provides a nice counterpoint to spicy Asian entrees like pad Thai. And while it may not seem like a classy pairing, sparkling wine like prosecco is delicious served with potato chips or popcorn. It can also be used to make a number of cocktails, including a bellini.

Serve prosecco well-chilled in tulip or white wine glasses. While some high-quality bottles can be cellared for a few years, most bottles are meant to be enjoyed right away.

Key Producers, Brands, and Buying Tips

Prosecco is available just about everywhere—supermarkets, liquor stores, wine shops, and restaurant menus. It's generally much more affordable than champagne, with decent options available at just $10 a bottle. Spend over $15 for a superior experience. If you can't find prosecco, pick up a dry cava.

There are a number of vineyards that make widely available, quality prosecco:

  • De Stefani
  • Lamberti
  • Albino Armani
  • La Vostra
  • Cantine Riondo
  • La Marca
  • Valdo
  • Althéa
  • Zonin
  • Mionetto