WINE REVIEW SEPTEMBER 2017

DIAMONDS IN YOUR DRINK

Bursting bubbles are harbingers of either gloom or good times depending on particular situations. A bubble bursting in an overbuilt housing market will assuredly upset those heavily invested in real estate. Conversely bubbles bursting from a just-opened bottle of sparkling wine at a party are invariably precursors to merriment. In either case opening a bottle of bubbling wine will likely lessen the travails of unpleasant times and enhance the pleasure of happy occasions.

If you opened a bottle of sparkling wine during the past year chances are high it was Prosecco. Italy’s incredible success with Prosecco, primarily from the Veneto region, amounts to about 336 million bottles produced in the last twelve months and is projected to reach 400 million bottles by 2019. That said this seemingly prodigious quantity amounts to less than 10% of the overall global production of sparkling wines.

A significant reason for the rise of Prosecco’s worldwide popularity is price. Champagne, which Prosecco exceeded in sales in 2015, is produced in each bottle by a rigorously controlled, time consuming and expensive process known as methode champenoise, or “traditional method.” Prosecco production is quite the opposite. Finished wine from Prosecco grapes, also known as glera grapes, is pumped into gigantic stainless steel tanks where select amounts of sugar and yeast are added to induce a secondary fermentation which adds the sparkle or carbon dioxide to the wine.

It is then sent through air-tight tubes to bottling machines where it is filtered before being bottled and capped under pressure. This entire procedure, known as the Charmat bulk process, is accomplished in a few months compared to years using the traditional method of Champagne. Of course the results are substantially different, not mention the price. Secondary fermentation in each bottle, a la Champagne, produces finer longer lasting bubbles and a yeasty or brioche type of aroma and taste. Prosecco is known for its expressive albeit short lived bubbles, tropical fruit and vanilla character. As with all sparkling wines they can be made bone dry, i.e. no detectable sweetness to quite sweet in dessert or after dinner styles.

In Thailand, where wine is unfairly taxed at nearly three times the rate of distilled spirits, Prosecco is priced between approximately Bt550 to Bt1200 in retail shops. Champagne starts at about Bt3200 all the way to above Bt12,000 for vintage bottlings like Dom Perignon. Higher priced Prosecco with specific area names like Conegliano-Valdobiadene represent the premium region where the grapes are held to higher standards. Overall, Prosecco represents comparative value for everyday pleasure and is compatible with a wide range of spicy Thai food. Villa Sandi and Treviso are award winning brands to look for.

Australia produces a substantial amount of sparklers using the same Charmat method as Prosecco, although most tend to be sweeter. An exception worth trying is Chandon, owned by the Moet-Hennessey French conglomerate, which uses the traditional method of fermenting in each bottle. Trade agreements between Thailand and Australia have helped keep this wine under Bt1000 per bottle.

Whatever sparkling wine you choose it’s party friendly and a welcome option as more and more people are turning to it as each day unwinds. Salut!

Written by: R. James Mullen