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Food and Drink

Pop goes the prosecco



Champagne producers love to remind us that all champagne is sparkling wine - but not all sparkling wine is champagne. Now Italian sparkling wine growers in the Prosecco zone, in the hills to the north of Venice, have a story of their own to tell.

If you are unaware, Italy's popular fizz, prosecco, has undergone some significant changes to its production regulations designed to improve its image and propel its top examples into the milieu of bubbles that, while not champagne, are among the best sparkling wines in the world.

Authorities have delineated two prosecco zones. The former Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) zone, which lies in the plains between Friuli and Veneto, has been upgraded to Denominazione di Origine Controllata or DOC status. And the original Prosecco di Conegliano e Valdobbiadene Superiore DOC zone has become a Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita or DOCG from the 2009 vintage onwards. Both areas have legislated a reduction in output, but the big benefit to consumers is a more orderly prosecco category by style, quality and price.

Prosecco, the wine, used to be made from prosecco, the grape, but by 2011 anyone residing outside of the DOC/DOCG zone will have to call their grapes glera, a synonym for the prosecco grape, to further tighten the authenticity of the DOCG prosecco shipped out of Italy.

Earlier this spring I spent a couple of days visiting the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG zone and was suitably impressed by the steep sloped vineyards that dominate the landscape.

I learned that under the revised rules members of the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Consorzio are touting a number of new "Rive" labels. "Rive" in the local dialect aptly describes the vineyards planted on steep land.

This sub-category produces yet again lower yields, is all hand-harvested and must bear a vintage date. The prestigious Cartizze, the first Rive to be labelled, remains the star of the Conegliano Valdobbiadene production area.

In the coming years, growers expect to exploit scores of unique sites or Rives, each bearing a different name and speaking to a specific terroir that should give rise to a better understanding of prosecco's most prominent subzones and villages.

Not to make too fine a point about position and declination as it pertains to vineyards and grape growing, but there are currently 43 recognised Rives in Conegliano Valdobbiadene.

I know what you are thinking - prosecco is prosecco and girls just want to have fun. But in a world full of sparkling wine, often a place and a producer make all the difference, just ask the c hampenois .