First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 21st October, 2017
Worried you might be getting a Prosecco smile? It has been a tough few months for our favourite sparkling wine, with dentists in the UK recently warning that the deadly combination of sweetness, acidity and fizz could lead to a row of rotten teeth and receding gums.
All sparkling wines, including Champagne, are high in acidity and most of them have a decent dose of sugar too. It is true that some Prosecco are sweeter, but possibly it is simply a victim of its success.
Prosecco has been going through a decade-long boom, taking market share from rosé, less expensive Champagne and other sparkling wines. We like it in cocktails, either as a Bellini or Aperol spritzer. But really, we love Prosecco because it is so easy to drink. Floral and full of ripe pear fruits, it is far more palatable than austere sparkling wines such as Champagne and Cava. It has become our favourite party drink, frothy, fruity and fun.
But the smartest trick Prosecco producers pulled was removing some of the fizz from their wine. Excise duty on a standard bottle of sparkling wine is a massive €7.80 a bottle including VAT, double that of a still wine. A frizzante Prosecco, which has less fizz, and comes in a screw cap or driven cork, is classified as a still wine, and so can be sold at a much cheaper price. A spumante has the full quota of bubbles and a mushroom-shaped cork enclosed in wire.
All Prosecco is made from the Glera grape and comes from a single region in north-west Italy. Entry level is labeled DOC, simply meaning it comes from that region. Bottles with DOCG on the label come from the smaller mountainous region of Conegliano Valdobbiadene (try saying that after a few glasses!) and should be of higher quality.
So where does the value lie with Prosecco? All of the multiples offer inexpensive versions. The SuperValu Grifon frizzante is super-cheap when promoted down to €9 a bottle and a real crowd-pleaser. The Tesco Finest Prosecco (€17.99) is fresh, fruity and not too sweet, and O’Briens have the very smart Rizzardi Spumante. The Aldi Extra Dry DOCG is inexpensive (€12.79) and great value for money. I hear Aldi will be selling magnums, and double magnums of Prosecco (which are great for parties) from November 4th onwards.
If you are genuinely worried about your teeth (remember the story appeared in August, when real news is in short supply) and your health, here are three tips: firstly don’t drink too much – fizzy drinks go to your head much quicker than still; nibble on food as you drink, and don’t brush your teeth for a few hours afterwards. Otherwise, enjoy.
Grifon Prosecco Frizzante DOC, NV
11.5%, €11.99 promoted down to €9
This is classic inexpensive Prosecco, lightly fizzy and full of canned pears and fruit-drops. Serve chilled solo as a party wine (add a few fresh raspberries for a splash of colour) or as a base in all sorts of cocktails. Stockists: SuperValu
Casa Belfi Prosecco Colfondo Frizzante NV
One for the hipsters amongst you. Made from biodynamically grown grapes this is an unfiltered, cloudy, bottle-fermented sulphur-free Prosecco. You drink the first half by itself, and the second cloudy part with food. Lightly fizzy, bone-dry, funky, fruity and delicious. Stockists: Le Caveau; Baggot Street Wines; Bradleys, Cork; Green Man Wines; 64 Wines; World Wide Wines, Waterford.
Rizzardi Prosecco Spumante Extra Dry NV
A distinctly superior Prosecco with a dash of style. Floral with mouth-watering succulent pear and apple fruits, balanced by cleansing lemon zest, finishing crisp and dry. Stockists: O’Briens
The alternative: Innocent Bystander Moscato 2017, Australia
The bottle shouts frivolous fun. The wine is dayglo pink, full of frothy bubbles and sweetish juicy grape and cherry fruits. Irresistible. Australia’s answer to Prosecco? Stockists: Mortons; Clontarf Wines; Drink Store; Redmonds; Martins; McHughs; Mitchells; O’Donovan’s; Red Island; Red Nose Wine; wineonline.ie