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Say ‘Chak de Phatte’ with Prosecco This Festive Season

Posted: Tuesday, 23 December 2014 10:55

Say ‘Chak de Phatte’ with Prosecco This Festive Season

Dec 22: The best way to celebrate the Christmas Holidays and the New Year’s Eve Celebrations is to pop Champagne but a more affordable and almost equally enjoyable bubbly could be Prosecco, the fastest growing segment of the sparkling wine market, says Subhash Arora who believes that the Prosecco Hills are Forever and suggests some of the available labels that you may gift to friends or drink and say ‘Chak de Phatte’!

Click For Large ViewA friend had invited me and a group of close friends to Hotel Grand a few days ago. The evening started with snacks and the popping of bubbly. Looking at the bottle from the corner of my eye at a distance, I could tell it was Ti Amo Prosecco-the ubiquitous Jacobs Creek of Prosecco, a DOC Spumante from Treviso, the area in north-eastern Italy where it is produced from mostly Glera grapes earlier referred to as Prosecco.

I could not help noticing the server placing the flutes in front of each of us and mumbling, ‘some Champagne, sir/ma’am?!’, and filling up the flute. By the time, he reached me and repeated the question, I exclaimed, ‘but this is not Champagne!’ He replied sheepishly,’ sorry sir, I mean Prosecco.’

Rewind -4 years ago, same hotel but different setting. A friend’s daughter was getting married. I had convinced him to serve Prosecco instead of the ubiquitous Champagne Moet Chandon for the banquet. I organised Carpené Malvolti DOCG which was the top quality Prosecco available, from the oldest winery in Conegliano in Veneto region at the time. Everyone loved it and kept on asking for more ‘Champagne’. I kept on telling everyone it was not Champagne but Prosecco but after about a couple of dozen failed attempts I gave up my instinct of wine education and let everyone enjoy the ‘Champagne’. Back then not many people even knew about Prosecco.

Champagne vs. Prosecco

Both are sparkling wines and Spumante (indicating higher pressure of 5 Atm. bar inside the bottle).  Champagne is made from specified areas and under rules in Champagne, France from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (known as Schwarzriesling in Germany)  grapes and using a complex method called Methode Champenoise where the second fermentation is done in the bottle, thus capturing the carbon dioxide bubbles generated.

Prosecco is made in a specific area in the North-eastern province of Treviso from Glera grapes which were known simply as Prosecco earlier. Made by Charmat method (second fermentation in a tank rather than the bottle, from where it is directly bottled). It is much lighter, fruitier and frothier but simple and less elegant but much cheaper than the real McCoy which has no equivalent in the world. It can cost as low as 15% of Champagne which has become a brand internationally and hence commands high premium.

The classic Prosecco is produced in a beautiful and breathtaking hilly area between the two cities of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene- an hour’s drive from Veneto. The region could give Tuscany a run for its money in terms of beauty and touristic value with several wayside restaurants and agri-turismos (B & Bs in the vineyards). I had first travelled to this region in 2007 when I really fell in love with it and highly praised and recommended it for the Indian market because of high taxes making Champagne truly a drink for special occasions. I even wrote about a few of the wineries I had visited. I strongly urged the Consortium of Prosecco Producers to conduct road shows in India to popularise the drink and make more people aware of the bubbly but could not convince them due to their tight budgets.

Prosecco was granted the DOC status in 1969 for wines from this region. Wines from outside the region were given the IGT status only. But with the unprecedented growth in demand throughout the world and shortage of wine from the DOC area and with many copycats springing up, the original DOC area was elevated as Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG  (or Superiore) in August 2009 making it possible for this bubbly to be made in nine provinces and two regions- Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia and Conegliano Valdobbiadene. The DOC status has increased the supply significantly-many entry level wines from this area have now found their way in India-at much lesser price and of course lower quality.

Today, every importer in India worth it's salt distributes at least one Prosecco- Brindco, Aspri and Hi Spirits have more than one. With over 30% growth year on year, this is the fastest growing segment of the imported wine market. Proseccos are labelled as Brut (up to 12 grams per liter of residual sugar), Extra Dry (12–17 g/l) or Dry (17–32 g/l); Most imports are Brut and Extra Dry. Compared to other sparkling wines, Prosecco is slightly lower in alcohol, about 11 to 12 percent by volume. The flavor of Prosecco is generally intensely aromatic and crisp, bringing to mind yellow apple, pear, white peach, and apricot. Unlike Champagne, appreciated for its rich taste and complex secondary aromas, most Prosecco variants have intense primary aromas and taste fresh, light and relatively simple.  Serve chilled at 6-8° C in a flute or white wine glass which is getting gradually acceptable and fashionable for pouring sparkling wine.

PROSECCO TO BUY

There is hardly a retail store stocking imported wine, which does not sell at least some Prosecco. Prices in Delhi are fixed by law. Gurgaon distributors give discounts of 5-15%. Ditto in Mumbai. Bangalore has fixed prices but generally offers are available at the private retailers like Madhuloka and Drops. If you get tempted by the beautiful curvy shaped bottles, you are not alone. Two styles - Brut (slightly on the dryer style) and Extra Dry (slightly sweet) are generally available. You decide which ones to pick up depending upon your style preference. If you have slightly spicy food on the palate or the snacks, go for Extra Dry. I suspect if there are ladies in the party, it will also be the preferred style.

Click For Large ViewTi Amo Brut

There is a reason to say I love you (Ti amo in Italian) to Ti Amo! At Rs. 1300 MRP (House of Spirits) in Retail in Delhi it is the best bargain available. Even at Rs. 1400 it’s a good price in Bangalore (Madhuloka, Drops) though a bit too expensive (look out for festive season’s offers) in Mumbai (Patel, Juben) at Rs.2020. Gurgaon (Discovery, Lake Forest) retails it for Rs. 1600 but discounts of 5-15% are available in you know how to negotiate and buy by the case.

Attractive bottle-ideal for gifting and making cocktails like Bellini or Mimosa, a bit dry on the palate, easy drinking, fairly fruity, slightly short at the end, simple Prosecco but very good for the price (Importer-Brindco). I call it the Jacobs Creek of Prosecco-ubiquitous, well distributed, available a lot in hotel banquets.

Click For Large ViewDanzante Extra Dry

This Prosecco from the well-known producer Marchesi di Frescobaldi has a credible pedigree and is fruitier. With 12-17gms sugar as is the standard for an Extra Dry Prosecco, it would appeal more to the novices or with food. The price however might be the downside. In Delhi (Rs. 2800) it seems to be too pricy unless you are a Frescobaldi fanatic. Gurgaon is more reasonable at Rs. 2100 with the possibility of discounts, Bangalore Rs.2051 and Mumbai at Rs. 2379- some discounts may be available.

Click For Large ViewSan Simone Brut

Another popular variant sells all over Delhi in over 60 private retail shops like INA Market, Savitri Cinema GK-2, RK Puram; etc and Government shops of DSIIDC and DTDC at Rs. 1600, it is one of the good buys. It sold around 100 bottles at the Delhi Food Fest last month. For novices, it is quite a value-for-money decent Prosecco. MRP in Gurgaon is Rs. 1800 but one can bargain and get it for as low as Rs. 1400. Importer- Hema Connoisseur

San Simone Spumante Rose

Technically speaking, it is not a Prosecco; Glera grapes used to produce Prosecco are white and can only produce Brut (let’s say white!). Using Merlot, it gives a very fruity wine with cherry and strawberry flavours. The light salmon colour pink spumante is extremely popular for parties and celebrations. Available at Rs. 1600 in Delhi Retail but could get it for around Rs. 1500 in Gurgaon - great value at that price- compare with a Rose Champagne Brut costing over Rs. 7,000 if available. Please be advised that the comparison is not fair or valid except when the drinkers are not too conversant with the beautiful Champagne cousin.

Carpené Malvolti Brut

Click For Large ViewThis has been my favourite Prosecco not only because it is perhaps the only DOCG Prosecco and not only because it is from the oldest Prosecco making winery or the founders Antonio Carpené, who had studied in Paris with the financial help from Angelo Malvolti in 1868 or that they developed the Charmat method, but because the winery based in the heart of Conegliano still worked to keep the bubbly fresh and fruity. Not only are the autoclaves (tanks in which the second fermentation takes place) cooled inside, the rooms in which the tanks are situated are also kept between 0-4 ° C to keep the wine fresh and zingy. It’s a benchmark of quality and consistency. It is slightly expensive in Delhi (Rs.2390) but more reasonable in Bangalore (Rs. 1884.50) and Mumbai (Rs.2000). But it’s certainly worth the extra price for the high quality. Alc. 11.5%.

Zonin

Click For Large ViewZonin is one of the biggest family owned wineries in Italy and is  present in many States besides Veneto where they also produce Prosecco. They have been known to be producers of value-for-money wines. But Zonin seems to be higher priced with the selling price higher than even Carpené Malvolti which is also being imported by Aspri Wines. At Rs. 2590 in Delhi, Rs. 2585 in Mumbai and the more affordable Rs. 1852.56 (don’t miss the paise!) in Bangalore it is difficult for me to comment. If you like the brand, you would like to go for this Prosecco.

Both Carpené and Zonin are also available at the Duty Free Shop at $20 and $22. Its best to pick up one each on arrival or when a friend is coming without any alcoholic beverage to carry.

Piccini Vino Spumante Extra Dry DOC

Click For Large ViewPiccini is a well established Tuscan producer since 1882, with a wide range of wines. It jumped onto the prosecco bandwagon in 2012 in step with the skyrocketing popularity globally. Intense floral and fruity aromas of apple, lemon and acacia. The flavour has a slight taste of bitter citrus generally seen in Prosecco. It’s clean, crisp and springy with millions of persistent bubbles (mousse).  Alc 11%, sugar at 14 gms/l makes it slightly sweet for some but good with spicy food. Very refreshing but a bit heavy on the wallet. It’s available at Defence Store, 24*7, Le Marche and Taste in Delhi for Rs. 2500. Same price in Mumbai at Juben Wines, Wine World, Vineyard Wines, Peekay Wines, Warden Wine Merchant and Goa at Wine Palace, Newton's, Casa Berreto, Diamond Wines.

Mionetto Prosecco

Click For Large ViewMionetto is a quality Prosecco producer in Valdobbiadene. Their wines are being imported by Hi Spirits in three variants. The entry level Mionetto comes as Mionetto La Pieve and Mionetto Vivo Rose. If you don’t mind spending a little extra for good quality, go for Mionetto Prestige Prosecco DOC Brut. Mionetto Rose is priced at Rs.1650 and is the best value-for-money wine in the range. One wonders how it has been kept lower than Le Pieve which is slightly higher at Rs. 1800.

Mionetto Prestige DOC Brut sells for Rs.2100 in Delhi. It has elegant bouquet and bubbles, peachy nose and fruity and crisp flavours. Bubbles are lively but not too much on your face. The green apple flavours and a full mouthfeel with a medium after-taste make this wine very engaging. The alcohol is low at 11% so it not only feels light but goes well with food. The 12 gms sugar makes it perfect for the Indian palate that does not like very dry bubblies of less than 8-10 gms/liter of residual sugar. It was a ‘Recommended’ wine in August 2014 details of which may be found in We Recommend: Mionetto Prestige Collection Prosecco DOC

Foss Marai Cardinal Treviso Extra Dry DOC

Click For Large View Click For Large View

A good example of how Delhi excise laws make it difficult to buy wine in Delhi (Rs. 1700) if it is available in Gurgaon (Rs. 1100) where it is the cheapest perhaps in India. Foss Marai makes a wide range of Proseccos; this is the entry level bubbly. Alc 11%

Foss Marai Roos Brut Vino Spumante Rosato

Although strictly not a Prosecco but a blend of Sangivese and Cabernet Sauvignon (50% each), the beautiful sexy bottle from the Prosecco producer in Valdobbiadene, contains a nice salmon coloured pink, dry, medium body elegant bubbly that has a nose of strawberries and cherries, Lovely texture and delicious wine that leaves a pleasant taste of strawberries in the mouth. 5-6 gms/sugar makes it a dry sparkler.

Click For Large ViewMoletto Prosecco Extra Dry DOC

Moletto wines from the family owned winery in Veneto region used to be imported by Sovereign Impex several years ago. After a break of a few years Agnetta International, Gurgaon started importing the whole range and the Prosecco was back. The pale gold colour bubbly has a very creamy mousse and vivid acidity on the mouth, almost making you salivate. It has lime and lemony floral aromas with the flavours showing some of that bitter almond flavour but a distinct character. Alc 12%. It is available in Delhi, Gurgaon and Mumbai between Rs. 2500-2800 a bottle.  

Chak de Phatte with Prosecco

This festive seen don’t say Cheers with Champagne but say ‘Chak de Phatte’ with Prosecco and spend the few thousand rupees on something else!

I  end the article with lyrics inspired by Strawberry Fields forever by the  Beatles who sang it in 1967:

Let me take you down
‘cause I am going to
....Prosecco Hills
where the bubbles are cool
 and plenty to look around
Prosecco ..Hills are... forever!

Subhash Arora

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Tags: Champagne, Prosecco, Spumante, Methode Champenoise, Treviso, Charmat, Brindco, Aspri, Hi Spirits, Brut, Ti Amo, Marchesi di Frescobaldi, Valdobbiadene

       

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