In the era before the Italian wine renaissance, Prosecco wasn’t called Glera (a grape name that sounds like an ocular ailment). It was simply called Prosecco.
It’s hard to imagine a world today without Prosecco.
The last time a Houston-based, Italian-focused wine professional visited his favorite honky tonk in Austin, Texas, he was agasp to discover that the barkeep was pouring not one but two Prosecco brands by-the-glass.
In the time before the pandemic, said tradesman often drank a Tiffany-tinted bottle of Prosecco, acquired via the local Target, at his sister-in-law’s Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings in southeast Texas, a stone’s throw from the Louisiana border.
He can remember a time not so long ago that he poured his 80-something mother a glass of his favorite Champagne in his native southern California.
“Prosecco!” she exclaimed exuberantly.
Like Pinot Grigio, Prosecco has become part of the American lexicon. Its utterance evokes a bubbling lifestyle choice and a notion that sparkling wine is not just for the elite but for everyone.
That’s the magic of Prosecco: it’s a delicious, refreshing celebration under cork seal for around $15 (or $25 or more if you want to upgrade).
And I owe so much to Prosecco and that notion.
When I was a student at the University of Padua in the late 1980s, I used to join my friends as they drove up to Valdobbiadene (a short hour’s trip) to fill the trunks of their cars with farmer-vinified Prosecco — what some would call Prosecco Col Fondo today although no one called it that then.
In later years, when I returned to Italy for graduate studies, I would spend my summers playing and touring with a cover band across Proseccoland.
And it was thanks to those years spent meeting Prosecco growers and tasting their wines that I was given one of the greatest opportunities of my life, one that would change the arc of my career.
While I was working as an assistant editor for La Cucina Italiana in New York in the late 1990s, I was asked to write a 300-word piece on Prosecco for the “front of the book” as we used to say in the print media days. Instead, I called every Prosecco producer I knew (from my days playing music there) and filed a 3,000-word feature story on Prosecco that got me promoted to associate editor and wine writer for the masthead.
It’s incredible to think it now but 20 years ago, Americans hardly knew what Prosecco was. Super Tuscans were trending, Brunello was on the horizon. But no one, including me, could imagine the sales powerhouse and economic engine that Prosecco would become in this country and throughout the world.
For more than two decades now, I’ve made a living by working in wine. And it’s all thanks to a stroke of luck that I call Prosecco.
And it’s a gift that keeps on giving.
Today at 11 a.m. CST (12 p.m. EST), I’ll be joined by my good friend Flavio Geretto, one of the smartest people I know in the wine business, for a live Instagram story @EthicaWines. He’s the export director for Prosecco producers Villa Sandi and La Gioiosa (the latter now imported by Ethica).
I’ve done a lot of media consulting for Flavio over the last year and a half and we always have a blast working together. We even realized that we were both students in Padua at the same time (me at the college of letters, he in the economics department) and we used to go to the same clubs.
We’ll be joined by winemaker Stefano Gava, another colleague whom I admire greatly, as we talk about how to taste Prosecco like a pro. Please join us if you can.
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