A guide to Prosecco

Jonathan Goodall

Read our guide to Prosecco, the Italian alternative to Champagne, to find out what to pair it with, how to make Prosecco cocktails and much more.

What is Prosecco?

Prosecco is an Italian wine, usually (but not always) sparkling. In recent years it has become increasingly popular as an alternative to Champagne. At around £7.80 per bottle, this delightful Italian sparkler is a very frugal fizz.

The difference between Champagne and Prosecco

Champagne is made from the noble triumvirate of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, while Prosecco is both the name of the wine and the relatively modest grape from which it is made.

The Prosecco vineyards are in two regions to the north of Venice, and the wines have the sparkling, devil-may-care qualities of a Venetian masked ball. Champagne is only grown in the Champagne region of France, and in many countries, including those in the European Union, the name Champagne is legally protected.

How to recognise a good Prosecco

Good sparkling Prosecco – it’s not all fizzy – is light and fresh, perhaps a little aromatic, dry or off-dry and quite low in alcohol (11-12%), with crisp apple and pear flavours. Frizzante on the label means semi-sparkling; Spumante, fully sparkling.

Does Prosecco age well?

Prosecco doesn’t age well; in fact any Prosecco more than two years old should be treated with extreme caution. A bottle I tested stipulated, “Once opened, drink within two hours.”

What should you serve Prosecco with?

The Italians serve it as a chilled aperitivo, occasionally straying into the antipasti, and I’m told it’s good with rich seafood such as calamari and crabmeat.

How is Prosecco given its fizz?

While Champagne’s second fermentation – the one that gives it sparkle – occurs in the bottle, Prosecco is made by the Charmat method, whereby the second fermentation takes place in a large tank. It’s faster, less labour-intensive and much cheaper. The Champagne method produces wines with a yeasty, biscuity complexity, which is highly prized but rather overpowering in the celebratory cocktail for which Prosecco is famous – the Bellini.

Prosecco cocktails

Created in Venice between the wars by Giuseppe Cipriani of Harry’s Bar, a proper Bellini comprises one-third white peach purée topped up with two-thirds sparkling Prosecco – stirred and garnished with a slice of peach. It’s named after the Venetian painter Giovani Bellini, whose works are famous for their sumptuous colours, and the original recipe included a dash of raspberry or cherry juice for a rosy-pink glow.

Funkin Purée makes a ready-made White Peach Bellini Cocktail Mixer, available from selected Waitrose, Selfridges, and Majestic Wine.

To make a Bellinitini, shake 50ml vodka, 25ml peach purée and 25ml peach schnapps with ice, strain into a cocktail glass and add a lemon twist.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.