Relatively unknown 15 years ago, prosecco sales are growing spectacularly – it's increasingly the sparkling wine of choice for Australian fizz drinkers spending about $20 and less.
Light and fresh, medium-dry and rather neutral, prosecco rarely offends, although it rarely reaches the exciting high points of good wines made in the champagne style. Prosecco is not champagne; nor does it slug it out with the best Australian sparklers for quality, but its role is different. Prosecco isn't a wine to marvel at for its complexity or refinement; it's a bubbly for carefree quaffing and easy celebration.
Original Italian prosecco, from the country's north-east, has a big presence here, and many Australian winemakers are embracing the style as well. Victoria's King Valley, where the Dal Zotto family pioneered it in 1999, continues to be its heartland in Australia, but producers in other regions have joined the local movement.
The success of these Australian examples doesn't please winemakers in prosecco's Italian home at all. The Italians claim prosecco as a regional name, regulated by the EU, but until the late '90s it was seen as a varietal name for the grape it was made from, also known as glera. This dispute over use of the prosecco name has caused a wrangle between Australia, Italy and the EU in recent years. But whether Italian or Australian-made, the wine's easy-drinking future success seems assured.
Jacob's Creek Reserve Prosecco NV $15-$17
A pale sparkler with a well-handled whisper of sweetness enhancing almond, pear and a rose-watery exotic touch. Soft, creaming texture makes it an easy, no-fuss quaffer. Cork; 11 per cent alcohol.
Stockists include Liquorland stores; First Choice stores.
Preece Prosecco Cuvee King Valley NV $18-$20
From Mitchelton winery, this attractive prosecco has a tad more interest and class than most. Appley aromas have hints of vanilla bean and earthy complexity. It's a smoothly foaming drier style of some depth and length. Diam cork; 11 per cent alcohol.
Stockists include Liquor on Oxford, Darlinghurst (NSW); Melbourne Wine Store, St Kilda Road (Vic).
Babo Prosecco NV $24-$26
Italian wine made with Australian input, Babo has a lively, fine bubble and floral, almond and light sulphide aromas. Flavour is fruity and slightly meringue-like, with a touch of firmness and tingly underlying acidity. Easy to like. Cork; 11.5 per cent alcohol.
Stockists include Blackhearts & Sparrows stores (Vic); Kent St Cellar, Sydney (NSW).
Innocent Bystander Prosecco King Valley NV $18-$20
A prosecco of lower alcohol than most, but it retains a pleasant intensity. With a lively fizz and a restrained aroma of apple pastries and almond, it's friendly, soft and fruity with a fresh, zesty finish. A true crowd-pleaser. Diam cork; 9 per cent alcohol.
Stockists include Pyrmont Bottle Shop, Pyrmont (NSW); Foodworks, Elwood (Vic).
Corte Carista Prosecco NV $9.99
Lively and frothy with a very grapey, almost muscaty aroma, this Italian prosecco is floral, fresh and simple with notable sweetness nicely counterpointed by crisp acidity. Straightforward refreshment at a very reasonable price. Cork; 11 per cent alcohol.
Stockists include Exclusive to Aldi stores.
Risky Business Prosecco NV $23-$25
Lively and foamy, this fresh, light example of King Valley prosecco offers attractive aromas of citrus, apple and almond. It has a pleasant, appetising intensity, and it's drier and more refined than most, finishing agreeably zesty. Crown seal; 10.5 per cent alcohol.
Stockists include Bespoke Wine & Spirits, Thornbury (Vic); Kemenys Food and Liquor Store, Bondi (NSW).
Melbourne's third annual Prosecco Festival takes place at Northcote Town Hall Arts Centre on Saturday, February 29, with tastings of more than 40 proseccos from Australia and Italy. Tickets are $50, plus Eventbrite booking fee from proseccofestival.com.au
Mark your diary for Sparkling Sydney on Sunday, May 24. The celebration of all things sparkling is a free public event featuring more than 60 sparkling wines from Australia and around the world. It takes place in Pirrama Park, Pyrmont. Details: sparklingsydney.com.au