A panel of experts gathered for a blind tasting to deliberate over the great, the good and the sparkling at the first ever drinks business Prosecco Masters.
Let’s face it, if one were to list this decade’s most fashionable drinks, Prosecco would undoubtedly feature, and probably top the list. With its memorable and distinctly Italian ring, appealing taste, and gentle fizz, the sparkling wine now features on almost every chalkboard, wine list or supermarket shelf, as well as in a raft of trendy cocktails.
As a result, Prosecco has pretty much single-handedly sustained northern Italy’s export volume success, becoming, some might say, the new Pinot Grigio. And, while the latter light-bodied white grape brought a fresh generation of drinkers into wine, Prosecco has, similarly, taken a great number of consumers in a new direction, turning them into regular sparkling sippers – as opposed to regular wine drinkers and occasional Champagne consumers.
In essence, Prosecco has become the crowd-pleasing solution for more casual, and celebratory social occasions, however, it’s less prevalent at formal and upmarket events, as well as those really special times, when the default choice is still Champagne.
Its inability to take advantage of the latter sparkling opportunity is probably because there’s a sense that Prosecco is nothing more than an unsophisticated, fun sparkling – which after all, is a belief that has served the category well. However, as those who reside in Italy will tell you, there’s more to the category that basic fruit-scented fizz. But, what is the difference in taste between the different quality tiers? And, can one detect site specifics at the top-end?
It was such questions, when allied to Prosecco’s sales success, that prompted the drinks business to launch the Prosecco Masters to complement its other major Masters competitions, including one for Champagne as well as others for widely planted grapes, such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Having attracted just under 100 Proseccos for our first competition, it seems we were right to instigate such a tasting for the fast-expanding category, with many producers telling us how pleased they were that we were running an independent blind tasting just for this Italian fizz.
To judge the sparklings we selected a range of personalities from different professions that were well known for their expertise in both the Italian and sparkling wine scene, be they wine writers, sommeliers or buyers (see box below for the list of judges).
As the day’s tasting came to a close, all agreed that they were greatly encouraged by the overall consistency in quality, although certain categories performed better than others. The judges were looking for certain traits, such as delicate fruit, freshness, as well as, depending on the price, complexity and a long finish, and they weren’t disappointed.
“For me, Prosecco is all about Italian technology wedded to a very delicate grape variety,” commented Alex Canetti, Italian specialist and brand manager of Antinori at Berkmann Wine Cellars. Drawing attention to the need to protect this variety’s subtle character, he praised northern Italy’s ability to produce the world’s best winemaking equipment, be it bottling lines, tanks or presses, and then use them to great effect with the Glera grape in the Prosecco DOC and DOCG. Supporting such a belief, Nick Tatham MW, who works for Italian specialist Continental Wine and Food, added, “Delicate is an extremely important word when it comes to Prosecco, and I think delicacy is what customers are looking for.” He also noted, “The nose is terribly important; it has to be appealing.”