Wine: Bubbles on a Budget, the Prosecco Way

We all know that 2009 is a tough year economically, and we are all adjusting in our own way. But let's not forget that it is Valentine's day shortly. Maybe this year, the fancy restaurant is out. In difficult times, I believe that it becomes more important to celebrate the special occasions. What could be more appreciated or, as romantic as a home-cooked meal? And the celebratory bubbles don't have to be Champagne.

Today non-Champagne sparkling wines have never been better. For less than $20, there is a huge array of choice. One type, that has become hugely successful is the Italian sparkling wine Prosecco. Why?
Answer: It is light, lemony, bubbly, fun to drink and extremely affordable.

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Prosecco sparkling wines are made from the Prosecco grape, which is native to the Veneto region, where most Prosecco comes from. The best wines come from the heartland, a series of rolling hills between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadeneand bear the official appellation - DOC Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene.

Like all sparkling wines, Prosecco gets its bubbles from undergoing a second fermentation. However, unlike Champagne and traditional method wines, the second fermentation is not in bottle, but in large stainless steel tanks, and is called the Charmat method. This method is much more suitable for preserving the freshness and fruitiness of wines like Prosecco.

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Prosecco wines are made to be drunk young. No brownie points for 'saving' it for that perfect special occasion. It will lose its vibrant, fresh character. Prosecco should be refreshing, youthful, fruity, with aromas and flavors of lemons, melon, almonds and some floral notes. Prosecco comes in two main styles "Extra-Dry" and Brut, with Brut being both the more popular as well as the drier style.

Prosecco is also very versatile. Traditionally served as an ap&eactue;ritif, it is also delicious with a variety of hard cheeses like Parmigiano Reggiano, Asiago, Gouda or Cheddar, salted or smoked almonds, salami and cured meats.

And let's not forget the famous and original Prosecco cocktail, the Bellini. There is no end to the versatility of this wonderful wine. It is sure to add the right sparkle to any Valentine's celebration.

Here are some of my favorite Prosecco wines:
• Prosecco Bisol, Brut NV, $15
• Prosecco, Frozza, Extra Dry NV, $13
• Prosecco, Zardetto, Brut NV, $13
• Prosecco, Mionetto, Brut NV, $15
• Prosecco, Mia NV, $10 (this one has a screwcap closure!)
• Prosecco Bellenda, Brut, 2007, $18 (a little more expensive and vintage, but worth it)

Prosecco wines are widely available across the United States. Just make sure that the bottle you buy has not been lying around the store for too long. Ask for advice from the sales person, and may your Valentine's celebrations, wherever they are be special.

(Prosecco map from Consorzio Tutela del Vino Prosecco, other images from Flickr member ms.Tea licensed for use under Creative Commons)