“Come quickly, I am drinking the stars!”
This is a famous [mis]quote attributed to Dom Pérignon, the godfather of champagne. If anyone had hung around long enough, they would have heard another famous quote echoed through the ages as well. “Hold my hair, I’m barfing stars!”
One hard lesson seems to be that champagne is delicious but not a good thing to mix with any other adult beverages in the course of a festive evening. A second hard lesson that the French are hammering home, is that champagne only can be made in the Champagne region of France. It is one of the most waspishly defended PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) foods in Europe. Everything else is merely “sparkling wine”, as far as they’re concerned.
Which is fine by me. Champagne is nice, but there have been a few occasions where I promised god that I would never drink it again. If you’ve ever been on the bad side of champagne, you know what I’m talking about. On the other hand, some events call for a nip of the bubbly. Enter the Italian cousin of champagne–prosecco.
Prosecco is a sparkling, dry Italian white wine made from glera/prosecco grapes. This varietal of grape is thought to have been grown as far back as the Roman times, and is now grown specifically for prosecco wine. Spumante (fully sparkling) has gone through a secondary fermentation, which gives it the bubbles. Frizzante, gentile, calmo, or tranquillo are also prosecco wines but do not have the same bubble as the sparkling spumante. Prosecco is aged in stainless steel vats these days, and can originate outside of Italy now, so flavors vary tremendously from maker to maker. (You can even buy it in a can if you are certifiably insane.) One more thing to know when buying prosecco is that it does not age in the bottle, so you should drink it within three years of its vintage.
A friend brought over this bottle of Dom Bertiol to celebrate a milestone in her college career, and as a bribe so we would break out some of our recent cheese and crusty bread binge at Uppercrust. Just the sight of the glass of bubbly sent me back to a previous New Year’s Eve with ‘house’ champagne at a pub we were celebrating at. Fortunately, my love for most things Italian prevailed and I joined in the prosecco toast.
This was a lovely combination of the fine bubble of real champagne and the subtle flavors of a very dry white wine. The floral notes and fragrances were of the Victorian flowers (tea rose, violet, wisteria) rather than the blaring vulgar scents Bath & Body Works. You laugh, but some of these wines smell like they were poured over a suburban MILF book club before being bottled.
The flavors were clean and crisp, running towards almonds and pears, with a sweet clover high note. I can’t help compare it to my favorite other bubbly drink, Cidre Bouché. I love a wine (or anything) that you can practically taste the soil and the sunlight where it came from. ‘Of the earth’ is the only way I can describe that feeling of standing in the vineyard among the sun-dapple leaves. Prosecco tends to be significantly sweeter than real champagne, but it’s nothing like your average white wine.
As this was a gift, I couldn’t tell you were it came from or what the price was, but it seems to range from $12 to $17 a bottle, depending on where you find it. Worth it, in that price range. When you need a bottle of the bubbly, keep your eye out for this, or any decent prosecco if you can’t bring yourself to choose an authentic champagne.
I did note a complete absence of champagne regret the next day–the sensation of your eyeballs trying to crawl into the back of your eye sockets to escape daylight. And the prosecco played well with others in my stomach, where champagne tends to throw a bit of a temper tantrum if not given undivided attention. Over all we were quite happy with this Dom Bertiol, and were sad to finally stow the empty bottle in the recycle bin as if laying to rest the body of a Viking warrior in a Skuldelev before pushing it out to sea and setting it on fire.
Well, perhaps a bit less melodramatically than that. But it was a decent bottle of sparling Italian wine.
Dom Bertiol Prosecco
(Talking and drinking, so did not note the year, origin, or varietal.)