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Rosy Future for Prosecco

By Jack Brostrom
August 26, 2020

Math question: If you’re feeling like having some Prosecco and your friend wants a rosé, how many different wines do you need?

This is one of those happy instances where 1 + 1 = 1.

Introducing Prosecco Rosé—though not soon enough for this past summer, unfortunately.

If you’re not shocked by this development, maybe it’s because you’ve seen “rosé prosecco” already. But if you have, it wasn’t rosé Prosecco with a capital P because the rules of all three Prosecco denominations have in the past permitted only white wines. What you might have seen is a wine labeled as “prosecco” but made in a country that doesn’t respect the protections afforded to Prosecco producers in Italy. Or it may have been a pink sparkling wine made by a Prosecco producer but labeled simply as Vino Spumante, never actually saying the word Prosecco on the label.

In any event, the Prosecco DOC consorzio’s request for a change of rules has been approved, officially allowing a rosé style of Prosecco. The rosé-ness will come from the addition of 10–15 percent Pinot Nero (aka Pinot Noir) to the base wine made, as always, from at least 85 percent Glera. The consorzio estimates that production of the new style will start off in the range of 1.7 million cases (!).

Note that this new wine category will apply only to Prosecco DOC—the larger denomination that includes most of Veneto and all of Friuli–Venezia Giulia. The Prosecco DOCGs in Veneto (Conegliano Valdobbiadene and Asolo) have not followed suit, as their reputations are based on traditional styles. And as the folks at Villa Sandi point out, very little Pinot Nero is grown in the hilly terrain of the DOCGs, where they have traditionally focused on Glera.

Not everyone was in favor of the idea, unhappy that this new product line was moving Prosecco too far away from its original identity. But others do not see a rosé version—quite common in lots of sparkling wine regions around the world—as a threat to the denomination’s reputation.

Among the producers on record as looking forward to this new opportunity are Zonin, Villa Sandi, and Bottega. All three already have pink sparkling wines in their portfolios that, up until now, have been labeled simply “sparkling wine of Italy” (vino spumante di qualità) because there was no denomination that they qualified for. Replacing those vino spumante wines, or adding to their lines, with true rosé Proseccos would no doubt bring a nice boost in sales. The new Prosecco rosé DOC wines must be vintage dated and will be produced in the brut nature to extra dry range.

Zonin’s Rosé is made in Veneto from, of all things, Nerello Mascalese, presumably from their estate in Sicily, so they will need either a new formulation or a new line of wine altogether. Villa Sandi, on the other hand, already had a Glera–Pinot Nero blend, within its Il Fresco range, and plans to add a new item at the DOC level. The existing Il Fresco rosé, which has been a very successful product for Villa Sandi, will remain in the portfolio.

Bottega held Glera and Pinot Nero from the 2019 harvest in tanks so they could begin production of a new product, Il Vino dei Poeti Prosecco Rosé, as soon as the decree became official. The new rules require a minimum of 60 days of fermentation, so the wine was expected to be ready for bottling by October 2020 and available in Europe not long after. However, they will wait until the 2020 vintage is ready before shipping to the U.S. (estimated arrival March or April 2021). Like Villa Sandi, Bottega plans to keep their existing spumante made from 100% Pinot Nero (from Lombardy) in the lineup rather than replacing it. As any Burgundian winemaker will tell you, working with Pinot Noir is not without challenges, and this experience with the red grape will no doubt come in handy.

The rule changes took effect immediately, so producers like Bottega who still had unfermented (or partially fermented) juice in tanks, including the requisite Pinot Nero, could start making the pink version right away. The rest will have to wait a few more months. The new Prosecco Rosé specifications set January 1 following the grapes’ harvest as the earliest release date—which seems like an unfortunate choice of dates since it means each new vintage will not be available until after Christmas and New Year’s Eve (unless the goal is to help clear out last year’s vintage from retail stocks).

It will be interesting to see when Prosecco Rosé starts to make it into export markets. Let us know when you see it in a wine shop, restaurant, or other retailer in your area (post a comment below or email us).

Wineglass photo courtesy of Bottega SpA

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