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The Prosecco Masters 2015: The medalists

Prosecco that stayed true to its roots, providing freshness and charm with value for money, shone brightest in our second annual Prosecco Masters.

Prosecco, as we know, is flying in the UK. Last year sales were up 75% and overtook Champagne for the first time as Brits splashed out an estimated £1 billion on the stuff in the on- and off-trade. Sales of the fizz are up by around 40% in supermarkets, with Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and M&S all reporting strong growth. It’s a similarly rosy picture in the on-trade, where sales are surging due to Prosecco’s image as an affordable luxury that suits all occasions. Light, fresh, slightly sweet, and with an appealing price point, Prosecco ticks all the boxes, meaning guilt-free cork popping from living room to bar. The recession brought about a change of mindset, meaning a certain kudos is now attached to bargain hunting, thus wallet-friendly Prosecco has emerged as the ultimate crowd-pleaser. The strength of “brand Prosecco” has solidified to the point where it now seems bulletproof, having carved a niche as a stylish sparkling wine rather than simply a cheap alternative to Champagne.

As consumers become better acquainted with the category, they are more likely to trade up from DOC to DOCG Prosecco, and in some cases, to the top drops from Cartizze. But is the difference in quality perceptible enough to warrant the extra cash? And can you really taste the terroir in the top examples from the region? We attempted to answer these questions at our second annual Prosecco Masters competition held in March at the über-swish Punch Room housed within Ian Schrager’s London Edition hotel in Fitzrovia. Having received just under 100 entries, we gathered a panel of seasoned sparkling wine experts, including wine writer Michael Edwards, Italian wine expert Tom Bruce-Gardyne and Alex Canetti, off-trade director at Berkmann Wine Cellars, to taste through the line-up.

A short leap upwards

Overall, the judges were impressed by the quality of the wines on show, though all agreed that there was less of a perceptible leap in quality from DOC to DOCG than they anticipated. All sought freshness, bright fruit, purity and prettiness in the wines, with those that were evidently trying to ape Champagne being marked down. “Prosecco is meant to be fruity and fresh; it isn’t Champagne and therein lies its charm,” believed Tom Bruce-Gardyne. “I think the brut styles are trying too hard to be Champagne-like.” Canetti of Berkmann concurred: “I’m looking for softness, roundness and prettiness, that’s what you want from a Prosecco. The best were delicate, ethereal, spicy and soft. There were no bad wines in the line-up but a lot of boring wines. I’m looking for commercial wines in that there’s something in them that consumers will love,” he said.

Michael Edwards, meanwhile, was impressed with the lower end of the spectrum. “The standard of the wines on show was much higher than last year. I was particularly impressed with the DOC wines,” he said. In 2009, the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene region north of Treviso – where grapes are hand-harvested from steep, south-facing hillside slopes – was elevated to DOCG status, while the DOC name was extended to the wider Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions, supposedly marking a crossroads for quality.

At the same time, Glera became the official name for the grape variety used in Prosecco production and the practice of selling Prosecco on tap was banned. The tasting threw up an interesting debate about the quality differences between DOC and DOCG Prosecco with all agreeing that the two were closer in character than they were expecting. “When we got to the DOCG wines I thought there would be a step up in quality but there wasn’t really, which was disappointing. I expected more from the category,” lamented Canetti.

The other judges agreed: “Surprisingly, there didn’t seem to be much of a difference in quality between the DOC and DOCG wines,” said Edwards, while Bruce-Gardyne observed: “The first round of DOCGs wasn’t very good but thankfully there were no shockers.”

Delicacy and freshness

The DOC category put in a strong performance, scooping five silver medals in the £10-and-under price bracket and four gold medals in the £10-20 bracket. Moving up to £20-30, a single DOC Prosecco – Bottega Gold – won a medal, but made it count by scooping a Master. In the DOCG category, only one of the wines in the £10-20 bracket won a Master: Val d’Oca Le Rive Di Colbertaldo Extra Dry, while six of the £10-20 DOCG wines were awarded gold medals.

Canetti was disappointed not to be able to taste the terroir in the DOCG wines: “I expected them to be richer and more flavoursome, and for the terroir to come through, but it didn’t really happen,” he said. “Glera is quite a neutral grape – it’s neither Chardonnay nor Pinot Noir, nor is it trying to be. The key is in the delicacy and freshness.” Moving up to the top of the tree, just one Prosecco from Cartizze scooped a gold medal: Bisol Jeio. The 106-hectare “grand cru” is viewed as the jewel in Prosecco’s crown, producing low yielding, surprisingly sweet Prosecco due to the extended hang time the grapes undergo. Canetti was full of praise for the three that entered: “When we got to the Cartizzes it was a real step up – you could taste the terroir in the wines. They are better than ever,” he enthused.

Sugar sweet

Sugar levels were also a sticking point during the tasting. Produced as either a fully sparkling (spumante) or lightly sparkling (frizzante) wine, Prosecco is increasingly being made in a brut style, which may contain up to 12g/l of residual sugar. “Dry” Proseccos confusingly contain 17-32g/l of sugar, “extra dry” between 12-17g/l and demi-sec 32-50g/l. Both Michael Edwards and Tom Bruce-Gardyne believe that Prosecco benefits from the presence of sugar. “The best Proseccos are on the cusp of brut and extra dry,” said Edwards.

“Glera is a delicate grape; it’s hard to achieve the depth of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with it, so it needs the sweetness to work. I prefer the extra dry styles to the bruts. Prosecco with a touch of sweetness is a great proposition for Asian food.” Bruce-Gardyne, meanwhile, described the extra dry examples as “crowd pleasers” that “slipped down easily”.

Bang for your buck

When rounding off the tasting, talk turned to value for money, with all agreeing that there is fantastic value to be had at the £10 mark, with Bruce-Gardyne questioning whether the £20 DOCG Proseccos were worth the money given the quality available for half the price at DOC level: “An £11 Prosecco compared to a £19 should be a very different proposition – they need to offer something more if consumers are having to splash out on them,” he said.

Overall, it was the DOC category that surprised and delighted the judges most in terms of the quality on offer for its price point. “Prosecco DOC was the stronger of the two categories – there were a lot of winners in there, particularly for their price,” said Canetti. Bruce-Gardyne agreed, highlighting that it was the wines that weren’t trying too hard that impressed him most. “Prosecco isn’t a wine to be taken too seriously. The best examples offer notes of apple and pear, fresh acidity, balance on the palate and complexity without losing their elegance,” he said. Prosecco’s charm lies in its lightness of touch. When on point, it offers such balletic poise and delicacy that it dances across the palate. The wines that stayed true to Prosecco’s signature style shone, proving that the category should carry on doing what it does best.

Scroll through for this year’s medal-winning wines…

About the competition

The Prosecco Masters is a competition created and run by the drinks business and an extension of its successful Masters series for Champagne, Rioja and fortified wine, as well as its Global Masters series for major international grape varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The competition is exclusively for Prosecco and the entries were judged blind by a selection of highly experienced tasters using Schott Zwiesel Cru Classic White Burgundy glasses supplied by Wine Sorted. The top Proseccos were awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze medals according to their score, and those that stood out as being outstanding received the ultimate accolade – the title of Prosecco Master. The Proseccos were tasted over the course of one day at the Punch Room within Ian Schrager’s London Edition hotel in Fitzrovia.

Prosecco DOC

Company Wine Vintage Medal
Under £ 10
Santero Villa Jolanda NV Silver
Lidl UK Line Prosecco Spumante NV Silver
Continental Wine and Food MIOL Prosecco DOC Treviso Extra Dry NV Silver
Spagnol Domus Picta Prosecco DOC Treviso Brut 2014 Silver
Cavit Lunetta Prosecco DOC Brut – Cavit NV Silver
Cantina Beato Bartolomeo da Breganze Prosecco DOC Extra Dry 2014 Silver
Piera Martellozzo Prosecco Spumante DOC Millesimato Onedis 2014 Bronze
The Co-operative The Co-operative Prosecco NV Bronze
Buckingham Schenk Rivani Prosecco Extra Dry – Baccio Della Luna NV Bronze
Lidl Ireland Prosecco Frizzante DOC Treviso 2014 Bronze
Bottle Green The Prosecco Caggio NV Bronze
Casa Vinicola Bosco Malera DOC Prosecco Spumante Extra Dry “Canal Grando” NV Bronze
Ruggeri Argeo Prosecco DOC Treviso NV Bronze
MA SpA M & S DOC Prosecco Spumante Extra Dry NV Bronze
Mionetto Prosecco DOC Treviso Brut 2014 Bronze
Ehrmanns Zuccolo Prosecco DOC – Fantinel NV Bronze
£10 – £20
Salatin Altoprofilo Proesecco DOC Extra Dry 2014 Gold
Ca ‘Di Rajo Prosecco DOC Treviso 2014 Gold
Masottina Masottina Prosecco DOC Treviso Brut NV Gold
Jascots Wine Merchants Enrico Bedin Prosecco Spumante DOC Treviso NV Gold
Boutinot Italy “Collection” Prosecco NV Silver
Cantine Maschio Maschio Prosecco DOC Treviso Spumante Brut NV Silver
Masottina Masottina Prosecco DOC Treviso Extra Dry NV Silver
Zonin Zonin Prosecco DOC Cuvée 1821 NV Silver
MA SpA Valleys DOC Prosecco Spumante Extra Dry NV Silver
Colli Vincentini Romeo Prosecco DOC NV Silver
Fiol Fiol Prosecco DOC NV Silver
San Simone Di Brisotto Prosecco DOC Brut “The Concert” NV Bronze
La Gioiosa Prosecco DOC Treviso Spumante NV Silver
Continental Wine and Food Limited Casa Gheller Prosecco DOC Treviso Spumante Brut NV Bronze
Zonin Tenuta Ca ‘Bolani Prosecco Brut Sparkling Wine NV Bronze
Val d’Oca Val d’Oca Prosecco DOC Treviso Extra Dry Silver 2014 Bronze
Fantinel Fantinel Prosecco Extra Dry NV Bronze
MBG International Premium Brands Excavations & Ray Prosecco NV Bronze
Cockburn & Campbell Woman Prosecco Treviso NV Bronze
Boutinot Villa Vincenta Prosecco NV Bronze
Cantina Magredi The Magredi Calisetta Prosecco DOC Extra Dry NV Bronze
Zardetto Prosecco DOC Treviso Extra Dry NV Bronze
Maccari Spumanti Prosecco DOC Treviso Spumante Extra Dry Millesimato 2014 Bronze
£ 20 – £ 30
Bottega Spa Bottega Gold 2013 Master

Prosecco DOCG

Company Wine Vintage Medal
Under £ 10
Antica Quercia Matiu Conegliano Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut 2013 Silver
Bortolin Angelo Sparkling Valdobbiadene DOCG Extra Dry 2013 Silver
Bortolin Angelo Sparkling Valdobbiadene DOCG Brut 2013 Bronze
£ 10- £ 20
Val D’Oca The Banks Of Colbertaldo Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Dry 2014 Master
Villa Sandi Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Spumante Brut Vintage 2014 Gold
Valdellovo SS Di Benedetto Ricci Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Dry Year Zero Millesimato 2014 Gold
Boutinot Ca ‘de Riva di Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry NV Gold
Ruggeri Justin B. Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Dry 2013 Gold
The Brand Sparkling Prosecco Conegliano-Valdobbiadene DOCG Cuvée NV Gold
Andreola Andreola 26th Ist Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Spumante Brut Rive Di Col San Martino 2013 Silver
Bisol Bisol Crede Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore 2013 Silver
Cantine Maschio Male Dei Cavalieri – Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG Rive Di Colbertaldo 2014 Silver
Zonin Zonin Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry DOCG Prestige 1821 NV Silver
Continental Wine and Food Bortolomiol Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry DOCG Senior 2013 Silver
Vinissimo Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry NV Silver
Bottle Green Sparkling Prosecco Conegliano-Valdobbiadene DOCG San Nicola NV Silver
Andreola “6th Sense” Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Spumante Dry 2014 Silver
Jascots Wine Merchants Prosecco Superiore Millesimato – Enrico Bedin 2013 Silver
Giusti Dal Col Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut NV Silver
Vinicola Serena VBrut Millesimato Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG 2013 Silver
Bellussi Belcanto Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Extra Dry NV Silver
Andreola Mas de Fer ‘Rive Di Soligo Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry DOCGProsecco 2014 Silver
Santa Margherita Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Dry 52 2014 Silver
Zardetto Prosecco DOCG Extra Dry Molin 2013 Silver
Continental Wine and Food Casa Gheller Prosecco Di Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG NV Silver
Montelvini Asolo Prosecco Superiore Brut Millesimato 2014 Silver
Andreola Vineyard Crag Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Spumante Brut 2014 Bronze
First Class Products Drusian Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Spumante Brut 2013 Bronze
Carpenè Malvolti 1868 Extra Dry Prosecco Superiore DOCG 2013 Bronze
Mionetto Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG 2014 Bronze
Buckingham Schenk Baccio Della Luna Brut NV Bronze
Paul Zucchetto Purofol 2013 Bronze
Ca Di Rajo DOCG Prosecco Superiore Valdobbiadene Cuvée Del Founder 2013 Bronze
Bottle Green Sparkling Prosecco Conegliano-Valdobbiadene DOCG Millesimato 2013 Bronze
Montelvini Asolo Prosecco Superiore Brut 2014 Bronze
Santa Margherita Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut NV Bronze
First Class Products Drusian Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Spumante Extra Dry 2013 Bronze
Boutinot Domenico de Bertiol Prosecco Di Valdobbiadene Spumante NV Bronze
Ca ‘Di Rajo Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG 2013 Bronze
£ 20- £ 30
Salatin Salatin DOCG Prosecco Superiore Valdobbiadene Extra Dry Millesimato 2013 Silver

Prosecco Cartizze

Company Wine Vintage Medal
£ 20- £ 30
Bisol Jeio ​​Valdobbiadene Superiore Di Cartizze NV Gold
Carpenè Malvolti 1868 Cartizze Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG 2013 Silver
£ 30 +
Bisol Private Cartizze Zero Dosage Valdobbiadene Superiore Di Cartizze 2012 Silver

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