What’s Prosecco? The Lowdown on This Sparkling Wine

Sparkling wines have such a unique and bubbly texture that knowing the differences between them may be hard for even the stoutest wine fans.

For example, Prosecco is an increasingly popular sparkling wine with a surprisingly early lineage. The modern version was created around the time of the American Civil War over in Italy as a replacement and competitor for French Champagne styles.

Understanding this attractive wine option will help you make an informed and intelligent purchasing decision.

What's Prosecco The Lowdown on This Sparkling Wine

So, What is Prosecco Wine?

Italy is home to some of the oldest wines in the world, including vibrant and fruity red wines. However, they also invented the Prosecco, a sparkling white wine that was a surprising change of pace for Italian viticulture.

Though the region had been creating some early forms of Prosecco, these wines lacked the bubbly nature of modern Prosecco, though they shared some flavor and aroma notes.

Glass of Prosecco with blue sky background

Instead, wine fans track the creation of bubbling and sparkling Prosecco to a chemist named Antonio Carpane.

Carpane wanted a sparkling wine that was as good as Champagne from France but which came from Italian grapes and Italian winemaking styles.

So, after a period of experimentation, he created sparkling Prosecco. Amazingly, he was right about this sparkling wine’s quality.

While Prosecco doesn’t quite have the same international renown as Champagne, it grows in popularity every year.

This is because it provides an excellent alternative to Champagne, one with its own unique flavors and aromas that still compare favorably to a great Champagne.

Just as importantly, its cost is usually more moderately priced than the more popular Champagne, meaning it’s surprisingly easy to afford.

Which Grape is Used to Make Prosecco?

Glera grape on a vine
Prosecco is made using Glera grapes.

Italian viticulture techniques use the Glera grape to produce Prosecco.

If you’ve never heard of Glera, that’s because it was once known as the Prosecco grape before its name change.

As you can imagine, this means it is mainly used for creating this sparkling white wine. So you’d be right: authentic Prosecco must have 85% Glera grapes and 15% of other options, like Pinot Noir or Pinot Grigio.

Italians (and most wine fans) will tell you that the best Prosecco uses as much Glera grape as possible.

That’s because this grape’s thin skin and moderately high acidity create a reasonably neutral texture, one that works well for sparkling wines.

It also has a medium body, with alcohol between 8.5% to 12.5%. Although, combining other grapes with this blend does tend to change its body, aroma, and flavors.

However, blending different grapes also helps winemakers add personal touches to their blends.

This unique approach lets creative wineries produce Prosecco with some nearly red-like textures without sacrificing the natural lightness of whites.

Generally, though, look for a Prosecco with the highest concentration of Glera grapes to find the highest-quality option for your needs as a buyer.

Prosecco Producing Regions

Valdobbiadene - Prosecco hills in summer
Valdobbiadene, Italy. These vineyards and the ones in Asolani produce the highest quality Prosecco.

Italy grows grapes all over the country, with each region specializing in specific grapes.

For example, Prosecco is typically grown throughout northeastern Italy’s Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions.

Early Glera grapes were prevalent in the town of Prosecco, which is where the grape obviously gets its name. This small town now operates mainly as a residential Trieste suburb.

Typically, the best vineyards for Glera are in Asolani and Valdobbiadene, with lush rolling hills that often produce Superiore Prosecco.

This wine category is the best Prosecco option and is grown in superior soil with excellent growing conditions. However, wine fans may purchase Prosecco DOC and DOCG, which vary in quality and growing methods.

Prosecco DOC

Prosecco DOC is the more common and cheaper type of Prosecco.

It comes from grapes produced in low- to mid-quality soil. However, the overall taste is still reasonably good, and it’s worth trying if you are on a budget.

In some regions, you may also find this wine as Prosecco Trieste DOC and Prosecco Treviso DOC.

Prosecco Superiore DOCG

Prosecco Superiore DOCG

Prosecco Superiore DOCG comes from areas with high-quality soil located on steep hills.

The ground must have good drainage to help improve water flow, while the sun must hit the area in pretty specific ways. These regions are minimal, with some covering just 264 acres.

How is Prosecco Made?

Prosecco is created using a unique Italian winemaking method known as the Charmat Method (as opposed to champagne, which uses the Traditional Method).

It was created by Eugene Charmat and patented in 1907, it took many of the early Prosecco creation methods and tweaked them in subtle ways.

You may also hear this technique called the Italian or Tank Method. Let’s break down how this process works below to help make it easier to understand.

Step One: Pressing the Grapes

Prosecco creation starts with harvesting the Glera grapes and sending them to a Prosecco winery.

Once here, the winery presses the grapes gently to gather the free-run juice from the grape’s heart.

This method helps minimize pulp and other contaminants in the product and lets winemakers create a surprisingly high amount of wine from a compact grape source.

It takes just 100 kilograms to make 70 liters of this wine.

Step Two: Adding the Yeast

This cloudy wine juice, otherwise known as must, is then placed in large stainless steel tanks and kept at a reasonably cold temperature for around 10-12 hours.

These temperatures reach as low as five degrees Celsius or approximately 45 degrees Fahrenheit. This settling time helps the juice settle before fermentation.

Winemakers then add yeast and keep the temperature at 18-20 degrees Celsius or 64-66 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 days.

Step Three: Secondary Fermentation

After this first fermentation period, Prosecco goes into stainless steel pressure tanks after adding more sugar and yeast.

This pressure tank collects the carbon dioxide produced during fermentation and helps it gather into the wine.

This carbonation makes the sparkling texture you get when drinking Prosecco. More extended fermentation periods result in higher alcohol and quality.

Step Four: Finishing Up

After the wine is done, it is carefully cooled and filtered to ensure the yeast is removed from the wine.

A little residual sugar remains to add some sweetness to the wine before the wine is bottled.

Winemakers try to bottle Prosecco ASAP to retain the sparkling texture. This second fermentation takes at least 30 days, and may take up to two months to create this wine.

What Food Can You Pair Prosecco With?

Cured meats

Prosecco is a surprisingly versatile wine with food, which is one thing that makes it such a unique alternative to Champagne.

While this French wine (champagne) also pairs well with other foods, Prosecco has a few more options that make it an exciting choice for many wine fans.

Understanding these choices can help you pick a Processo that works well for your specific tastes and preferences.

Cured Meats

When breaking out the cured meats for a party or dinner, pour a glass of Prosecco to add much to your meal’s overall flavor.

This simple sparkling wine will blend well with your cured meats and help enhance their broad flavors and textures.

After eating cured meats, you can use Prosecco as a dessert wine, dip your finished meats in the Prosecco, or even add it as a simple baste before serving.

Strong Cheeses

Are you a fan of cheese with a kick and are interested in trying Prosecco?

You’re in luck because this wine blends well with just about any strong cheese. These wines will all taste good with Muenster, goat cheeses, Parmesan, Feta, and even Extra Sharp Cheddar.

The heavy kick of these cheeses blends perfectly with the milder Prosecco taste, one that provides plenty of unique food pairing possibilities.

Fish Dishes

Do you love fish and struggle to find a great wine that blends well with just about any seafood?

Then, you may discover Prosecco meets your needs perfectly. Its light flavors help balance the sharp textures of most seafood, including things as diverse as whitefish, trout, and even shrimp and oysters.

The latter seafood is particularly good with Prosecco and helps accentuate its overall taste quite well.


Aperol Spritz cocktails Prosecco
Prosecco Aperol Spritz.

Prosecco is also a common cocktail ingredient, including some reasonably popular options.

Ever had a Mimosa? Most have sparkling wines like Prosecco served with orange juice. You can also try Aperol Spritz, an Aperol and Prosecco mix blended with soda water to create a delicious cocktail option.

Talk to your local bar to learn more about which option makes the most sense for you.

Simple Pairing Tips

Like with other sparkling wines, it is often a good idea to pair your Prosecco with food that has a very distinctive taste.

Slightly bland dishes rarely blend well with Prosecco. However, that doesn’t mean this wine is dull. Instead, it just has a lighter flavor that goes better with sharper foods.

It would help if you also avoided authentic acidic meals because Prosecco often has an acidic kick to it.

That said, wine acidity doesn’t quite mean the same thing as food acidity.

Wine’s acidity doesn’t necessarily trigger digestion problems but simply adds a sharper texture to the liquid, making it a unique offering for most.

However, acidic foods don’t always go well with acidic wines anyway, though you may find some tomato-sauce pasta dishes go very well with Prosecco.

How to Serve Prosecco

Serving Prosecco

Serving wine isn’t as simple as just popping the cork and hoping for the best.

While not every wine is incredibly complex to serve, Prosecco has a few things to consider before pouring.

In this section, we’ll cover the best serving temperature for Prosecco, as well as which glass you should use. We’ll also briefly touch on how you should drink from your glass.

Proper Serving Temperatures

Like most white wines, Prosecco needs to be reasonably chilled in the fridge before you serve it.

The exact temperature should be between 6 and 10 degrees Celsius or 42 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

The easiest way to keep the wine at this temperature is to buy a wine fridge explicitly focused on this purpose. These fridges also include things like child safety locks that keep your wine protected.

Related: Storing wine guide.

Chill While Serving

Prosecco storage

When taking your Prosecco out of the fridge, please place it in an ice bucket filled with ice and water to keep it chilled.

Take this step if you plan to enjoy multiple glasses or are serving at a party and don’t plan to put the Prosecco back in the fridge between servings.

Otherwise, you can just put the Prosecco back into your refrigerator after pouring a glass to help keep its proper temperature.

Related: Fast ways to chill champagne.

Use the Proper Glasses

Tulip-shaped glass for Prosecco

Only serve Prosecco in your most delicate tulip-shaped wine glasses to get the best drinking experience. There are a few reasons for this approach.

First, the taller shape helps retain the carbonation and keep your wine sparkling longer.

The larger top also helps collect the wine’s aroma and makes it more enjoyable. Grip the glass stem to avoid warming it with your body heat when drinking.

Pour and Sniff

Prosecco has such an excellent combination of flavors and aromas that it is crucial to get a nice sniff before taking a drink.

Swirl the wine lightly at the bottom of the glass and take a deep sniff before each sip. Doing so will help enhance the flavors and make them more enjoyable.

Naturally, this technique is one you can use when enjoying just about any wine, though Prosecco heavily benefits from it.

How Long Does Prosecco Last?

Prosecco must be sealed up immediately with an airtight stopper cork after pulling the cork. It will lose its carbonation and taste very flat if you don’t.

While Prosecco still has a good flavor without that carbonation kick, it doesn’t go down as well.

Typically, you need to drink Prosecco within three days to get the best results, which is shorter than most other sparkling wines, which is a critical point to consider.

Is Prosecco Sweet or Dry?

Prosecco sweet or dry

Prosecco is typically a reasonably dry wine with a few different dryness levels.

If you like sweet sparkling wines, it is not your choice. However, it varies pretty heavily among its various options and includes different sugar levels.

Let’s take a look at these levels below; a lower calorie count is typical with Prosecco as well:

  • Dry: A dry Prosecco will contain about 17-32 grams of residual sugar per liter. That may seem like a lot, but some dessert wines can have up to 220 grams of sugar per liter. Yikes!
  • Extra Dry: By this point, you’re getting to about 12-17 grams of residual sugar per liter. This wine should blend well with just about any food.
  • Brut: You get 0-12 grams of residual sugar per liter with this Prosecco type. Generally, most Prosecco wines linger around this level.
  • Extra Brut: Relatively rare (only produced in Asolo DOCG Prosecco wines), this level has just 0-3 grams of residual sugar per liter. Perfect for true dry wine fans.

What Does Prosecco Taste Like?

Prosecco has many different flavors and aromas that make it an appealing option.

Its relatively dry and light-bodied profile contains minimum tannins and typically includes green apple, honeydew, pear, cream, and lager notes.

These aromas and tastes make it quite appealing as a Champagne substitute.

When choosing a Prosecco, please pay attention to its perlage or fizziness.

These bubbly levels include Tranquillo (not sparkling, quite rare), Frizzante (minimally bubbly, slightly more popular), and Spumante (very bubbly, very popular). Read the label to identify where your wine qualifies.

Prosecco vs. Champagne: Are They The Same?

Some wine fans have a common misconception: Prosecco and Champagne are the same. That’s an understandable idea but also entirely wrong.

Champagne and Prosecco may both sparkle and have similar tastes, but they come from very different regions and grapes.

First of all, Champagne is a French wine that originated in 1693, one that uses Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir grapes.

As we already mentioned, Prosecco wines come primarily from Gerla grapes grown in Italy using the Italian Method. Champagne uses a much different production method called Méthode Champenoise.

So, while these wines have some similarities, Prosecco is not the same thing as Champagne.

However, its quality is on the same level despite lower prices because the Italian method is more efficient and effective. Note: Prosecco is also fruitier than Champagne and may be easier for first-time wine fans to enjoy.

In Summary

When picking a great Prosecco, make sure it comes directly from Italy.

Read the label for DOC and DOCG labels and any Italian region names.

Make particularly sure the wine is 85% Glera grape, at minimum.

If your wine does not meet these standards, it is not authentic Prosecco.

This process is necessary because people market false Prosecco all the time. These wines aren’t terrible but will give you the wrong idea about this fine wine.

Emma Miller