Italy’s sparkling wines, or ones named for them, were many people’s first foray into the world of bubbles.
Coming of drinking age in Australia in the early ’80s, it was a glass of lambrusco or Asti spumante that made me feel oh-so-sophisticated; today local producers and great-value imports have made prosecco and moscato good introductions to the joys of a glass of fizz. While words like ‘spumante’ (foaming) and ‘frizzante’ (sparkling) are popular wine label jargon, Italian sparkling wines come from a long winemaking tradition, with regional specialties governed by their DOCG, DOC and IGT appellation system (slowly being replaced by the European DOC and IGP tags). Here are five of the best Italian sparkling wines, which I always enjoy on my food and wine tours of northern Italy.
Lambrusco DOC Emilia-Romagna
Cheap, sweet imports and local copies have done a disservice to this wonderful food-friendly wine. Produced mainly in Emilia, from at least 85% lambrusco grapes, the best are frothy, gently sparkling, dry and deep red with hints of strawberry. Lini 910 carries the appellation Emilia IGT, as it’s a delicious blend from several Lambrusco DOC zones.
Franciacorta DOCG Lombardy
From the classic Champagne grapes chardonnay and pinot noir (with a touch of pinot bianco) and bottle-fermented with extended time on lees, wine from Franciacorta, just east of Milan, is often considered the most ‘serious’ of Italian bubbles. Marchese Antinori Tenuta Montenisa Cuveé Royale is toasty with a clean, citrusy finish.
Prosecco DOC Veneto & Friuli
Prosecco, a grape traditionally grown in north-eastern Italy, is famous for producing the creamy, sparkling white wine of the same name. While some fine proseccos are made in Australia’s King Valley, Babo has the distinction of being made in Italy from Friulian grapes by an Aussie winemaker.
Trento DOC Trentino-Alto Adige
In the Dolomite mountains of north-eastern Italy, sparkling wine is made from the classic Champagne grapes (plus a little pinot bianco), with secondary fermentation and lees aging in the bottle. Pale pink Rotari Rosé Brut has a lovely copper tinge and great red berry and yeasty notes.
Moscato d’Asti DOCG Piedmont
Around the province of Asti in north-western Italy, two lightly sweet, slightly sparkling wines are made from moscato bianco: Asti (previously Asti spumante) and the sweeter Moscato d’Asti with even softer fizz and lower alcohol. Alessandra Bera and her brother, Gian Luigi, make an excellent organic version in the commune of Canelli.
Updated 29 Dec 2023