Brown Brother's Prosecco 2008
Like Champagne, Prosecco is a region that is readily identified with a particular style of wine, in each case sparkling. Unlike Champagne, however, Prosecco is also the name of the grape variety involved, which is no doubt why the Australian firm Brown Brothers have no legal difficulty in using the name to describe the latest to their range - a sparkling Prosecco, the first vintage being the 2008.
Prosecco de Conegliano-Valdobbiadene, to give it its full title, is a region of north east Italy characterised by a cool climate and rolling hills. Historically this cool weather meant that harvests here were later than in more temperate regions, in October and November, and thus the wines would sometimes still be fermenting when the cold really began to grip in winter. With arrested fermentation many of the wines would be characterised by residual sugar, and if they suddenly bubbled back into life the following spring a light spritz of carbon dioxide would be another feature. As such the wines came to be renowned for a light touch of both sweetness and sparkle, and those made in the region today still mirror this style.
Having initially drawn some comparison between Champagne and Prosecco I should point out that even the most superficial examination of the region shows them to be world's apart. And as such, as I extolled in my write-up of Huet's 2001 Pétillant Vouvray, Prosecco shouldn't be considered a Champagne alternative. The wines have a distinctive style, fresh and aromatic, fruit-rich yet crisp, sometimes a little sweet, and sometimes with a trace of bitterness. I suspect that makes them ideal as aperitifs, or for drinking in the garden on a summer afternoon, and having tasted this week's wine I suspect some would go well with seafood too. Their story in the winery is also very distinct from Champagne; these wines are produced using the Charmat method, where the second fermentation which introduces the bubbles to the mix takes place in tank, rather than in bottle, which is of course the methode Champenoise. Indeed, this is the same method employed by Brown Brothers in the production of this cuvée. The grapes comes from the Brown's Banksdale vineyard which sits at 485 metres above sea level in the King Valley. They were harvested in February 2008 and then fermented in steel, before a second fermentation in tanks held at a pressure of 5 atmospheres in order to keep the carbon dioxide generated in the wine up to when it is bottled.
And so to the wine, the 2008 Brown Brother's Prosecco; in the glass it has a pale lemon hue, and a bone white froth gathers on the surface thanks to a fine bubbled bead. The nose has plenty of sweet orchard fruit, aromatic apples and juicy pears, with a sort of sherbetty, citrussy minerality behind it. On the palate it is true to form, in that it is light and characterful, and there is also a little trace of residual sugar I think, but at the level that gives flesh and substance to the wine rather than overt sweetness. This all sits very nicely behind the welcome, crisp acidity. This is a nice, light, summery style of wine with good fruit definition and a fine, tingling mousse. Within its style, it is a very good effort. 16/20 (20/4/09)