When a man is tired of Prosecco
It was Dr Johnson who famously said “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”. (I imagine the good Doctor didn’t have to travel on the District Line very often, but hey ho..). I’m going to borrow from him, to suggest that I might be tiring of something seemingly as fundamental to the world of wine, as our capital is to country: Prosecco.
We’ve been properly mad for the stuff for the best part of a decade; UK sales overtook those for Champagne a couple of years ago, production in its native Veneto region has more than doubled to satiate our desire for something fragrant and fruity for a fiver, and producers are quaking in their fine footwear for fear of what Brexit might do to their market.
Sadly, the fixation with ‘bottle price’, allied to the sense that I sometimes get from continental wine producers that we Brits are not always seen as hugely discriminating, has led to a lot of unremarkable fizz coming our way.
Prosecco now inspires an internalised sigh
It’s a great shame, but the reality is that the fresh, affordable sparkler that we fell in love with a couple of decades ago (in my case, on my first ever trip to Venice, when a glass – al banco – set me back about 30 pence, bless the old Italian Lira), too often now inspires an internalised sigh.
There is still – some – great quality Prosecco to be had, but you need to be prepared to pay a little more, look a little harder, and definitely steer clear of those supermarket ‘bargains’. So, what about some tempting Italian alternatives?
Check out this Sicilian star – made from Grillo, pronounced Gree-yo, a southern Italian grape used in the blending of Marsala – from Feudo di Santa Tresa, an accomplished organic producer. Il Grillo di Santa Tresa Spumante, (Vintage Roots, £12.75) is dry, with crisp, apple freshness, pleasing fruitiness and well-balanced acidity. It makes for a lovely aperitif.
Sainsbury’s, who must shift hundreds of thousands of bottles of slightly plonky Prosecco, deserve credit for bringing us an interesting alternative: Taste the Difference Pignoletto Spumante DOC Brut (normally £9, but currently £7.50 – and good value at that price), pronounced Peen-yo-letto, just in case you were wondering, comes from the area around Bologna in the Emilia-Romagna region. It’s dry, with lightly perfumed, blousy aromas, and a delicate frothiness, making for a pleasing party starter.
Finally, we zip back in time to the 1970s for a retro classic that’s really deserving of a comeback. I served up Rinaldini Vecchio Moro Lambrusco (The Wine Society, £10.95), ahead of a Prawn Cocktail and Bucatini Ragu supper the other night and it was a huge hit; Rosie, one of my guests, promptly went off and ordered a case. It’s deep purple, with an abundance of delicious red berry and cherry aromas and flavours, and it slips down much too easily. It’s dry, works as a more substantial aperitif, but would also be a great food wine, for pasta or pizza. My mantra is ‘things to try, and why’ – and this is emphatically one to try.
There are, of course, plenty of interesting alternatives to Prosecco from outside Italy and we’ll be exploring some of those very soon…