Sipping our bubbly with sushi one day, my friend Lyndsay told me that on her last trip to Las Vegas, a bartender told her that all Italian sparkling wine isn’t Prosecco. She wasn’t convinced, so she asked moi, The Bubbly Girl.
While Prosecco, which comes from the Veneto region and stars in the famous Bellini from Harry’s Bar is quite famous, there are lots of other sparkling wines from Italy. In fact, Italy makes more different sparkling wines than any other country. And with one exception, all the Italian bubblies in this post can be had for less than $20 a bottle.
Probably the most elegant sparkler from Italy is the one that many people have yet to discover: Franciacorta. It’s crisp, elegant and has a toasty aged flavor, very similar to champagne. Try to look for Franciacorta from Ca’ del Bosco, considered one of the best producers in Lombardy; their wines start at about $39.
For a lusty dry red sparkling wine that’s great with pork and richer dishes, then look no further than Lambrusco from Emilia-Romagna. The U.S. market was flooded with very inexpensive and rather simple Lambruscos for a long time, but now there’s good stuff readily available by brands like Ca’ de Medici, thanks to efforts of Lambrusco fans like Mario Batali throwing their weight behind it. I found a recipe for a Lambrusco Hot Wine Punch at Cooks.com.
If you like sweet sparklers, then you must try Moscato d’Asti, the refined and gently sparkling wine from Piedmont. Sometime back in college, you probably already met Moscato d’Asti’s more fruity, bubbly and casual cousin Asti that sells verrry affordably at most grocery stores. My favorite Moscatos include the Nivole by Michele Chiarlo and Saracco. Here’s a great dessert recipe from Martha Stewart Living for Ruby Red Grapefruit in Moscato.
Piedmont is also home to a great rosso spumante called Brachetto d’Acqui. The brachetto is an ancient grape – it was one of Cleopatra’s favorites – that tastes like cranberry, raspberry and rose and is balanced between tangy and sweet. Look for wines by Marenco Pineto and Banfi’s Rose Regale. Try this delicious sounding Brachetto Holiday Punch spiked with cognac and Aperol from The Red Cat in NYC.
When it comes to mixing cocktails though, My favorite Italian bubbly is Prosecco, which is featured in many of the recipes in my new book The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion being released by Clarkson Potter in August. Here’s the recipe for Il Sorrentino, the drink pictured at the top of this post.
Makes 1 cocktail
My friend Antonino put up pictures of the beautiful lemons and oranges that grow around his native Sorrento, Italy when he opened Arrivederci, the first in his San Diego restaurant empire. Sorrento is also thought to be the birthplace of Limoncello, a digestif made with lemon peels, sugar and vodka.
3 thin slices lemon
3 thin slices lime
3 thin slices tangerine
2 leaves lemon balm (or mint)
1 ounce Limoncello
½ ounce sour
5 ounces Prosecco
Add citrus and lemon balm to a rocks glass and muddle. Add Limoncello and sour and stir. Fill glass three-quarters with ice. Top with Prosecco. Garnish with slices of lemon, lime and tangerine.