Accredited Sommelier & Wine Writer Jane Staples shares three Italian sparkling wine alternatives to Italy’s much-loved Prosecco DOC.
Italy is the world’s leading producer of sparkling wines. Those who love Italian Prosecco will be glad to discover that there are many more Italian sparkling wines well worth trying. Here are my top three:
- Fragrant and Fruity Asti DOCG
This sweet sparkling white wine is made in Piedmont in Northwestern Italy, particularly around the town of the same name, Asti. Made from 100% Muscat Blanc grapes, using the Charmat method in pressurized tanks, it is relatively low in alcohol (7%-9%) and sweet. The best-known Asti is Asti Spumante DOCG, a reference to its characteristic “bubbling” (spumante) mousse. Modern Astis are exquisitely fragrant and fruity, with notes of ripe peaches, apricots and a typical muskiness. Serve chilled in sparkling wine flutes, during dessert, with pastries or fruit flans.
Moscato d’Asti DOCG is a delicately fruity, sweet style of Asti, considered frizzante (fizzy) rather than spumante. It is lower in alcohol, under 5.5% and made under less pressure than Asti. Moscato d’Asti DOCG typically shows citrus and floral notes along with flavours of peach, pear and apricot. It is best served chilled, in regular wine glasses, and pairs beautifully with dessert or dark chocolate.
- Rich and Creamy Franciacorta DOCG
This elegant dry sparkling white wine is made in the eastern part of Lombardy, near Lake Garda and the Veneto. It is made using Chardonnay and Pinot noir grapes, although Pinot Grigio and Pinot Bianco are also allowed. The sparkling wines of Franciacorta are made using the metodo tradizionale, in which a second phase of fermentation occurs directly in the bottle through the addition of select sugars and yeasts. They show flavours of white tree fruit, brioche and marzipan and exhibit a persistent creamy mousse. Franciacorta DOCG is an ideal wine to pair with raw seafood, oysters or dessert.
- Bubbly and Berried Lambrusco
Lambrusco is a fruity, floral red wine made in the Northern regions of Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy, particularly in the area surrounding the cities of Modena and Reggio Emilia. Three of the most popular Lambruscos are: Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC, Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce DOC and Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro DOC, made using grape varieties of the same name (Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco Salamino and Lambrusco Grasparossa.)
Most winemakers produce Lambrusco using the Charmat method, in pressurized tanks, resulting in larger bubbles than sparkling wines produced in the traditional method. They are commonly made dry and off-dry, either frizzante or spumante. Serve Lambrusco cold and accompany with hearty pastas, pork dishes or cured meats.
Italian sparkling wines are crafted with all the care and painstaking passion that results in a great wine product. Enjoy exploring them. You’ll be glad you did!