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The Prosecco Push

Robert Whitley on

Champagne producers frequently lament that the bulk of sales to U.S. consumers comes around the holidays, between November and the end of December. Champagne should be consumed year-round, I am told. I agree completely -- for those who can afford it.

The Prosecco gang has no such problem. The soft, fruity sparkling wine from northeast Italy is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the U.S. wine market precisely because wine lovers of all stripes can afford it. A decent Prosecco costs a fraction of the price you would pay for a decent nonvintage brut Champagne.

My local grocery has floor-stacked Prosecco at prices ranging from $10 to $15. No wonder Prosecco is flying off the shelf. Unfortunately, the low prices sometimes give the false impression that it is cheap and somehow lesser than. The Consorzio Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG hopes to change the perception with a campaign to educate U.S. restaurateurs and consumers about the notable qualities of Prosecco from this most important of all the Prosecco-producing regions.

Conegliano Valdobbiadene is situated between Venice and the Dolomite mountains, with steep hillsides and a long tradition of producers dedicated to distinctive Prosecco that truly represents the terroir of the DOCG (the appellation, in layman's terms). Prosecco from the area tends to show more minerality, is generally made in the drier brut style and exhibits more precise fruit characteristics.

It's also home to the Cartizze cru, considered the grand cru equivalent of Prosecco.

Some of the top producers include Adami, Bellenda, Bortolomiol, Astoria, La Marca and Mionetto, to name just a few. Many of these wines will cost a few dollars more than the least expensive Prosecco on the market, but the step up is well worth it and still far less expensive than non-vintage Champagne.

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The consorzio has hired three highly regarded sommeliers -- Amy Elizabeth Thurmond in New York, Jennifer Wagoner in Chicago and Iris Rowlee in San Francisco -- to serve as ambassadors for the Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG and alter the perception of Prosecco with outreach programs aimed at consumers.

It's a forward-thinking idea, especially for a sector of the wine market that already enjoys widespread popularity.

Best Value

Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.

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