All Prosecco is Italian sparkling wine, but not all Italian sparkling wine is Prosecco. The country’s viticulture is diverse and this extends to Italy’s sparkling wines, some of which are produced and protected by DOC and DOCG wine laws. Wine, is, of course, one of the top drinks in Italy.
As many of the world’s best sparkling wines are typically produced in cooler climates, many of Italy’s signature sparkling wines are produced in Central and Northern Italy, though other lesser-known sparklers are produced everywhere from Trentino to Sicily, including a sparkling wine that is aged under the sea off the coast of Liguria!
Sparkling Wines of Italy You Need To Try
This guide to the sparkling wines of Italy hones in on five Italian sparkling wines you need to know – Asti Spumante, Franciacorta, Lambrusco, Prosecco, and Trentodoc – explaining where each wine comes from, the grape varieties and production methods used, the typical flavor profiles and food pairings, as well as any other interesting information about the wines. Makes sure to visit the top Italian wineries.
There is also a FAQs section at the end, which answers all the questions you’ll ever have about the sparkling wines of Italy.
Asti Spumante (more commonly known today as simply Asti) is a very sweet sparkling wine produced in the Asti DOCG appellation, in the rolling hills of Piedmont, located in the province of Asti, north Italy. It’s the fully sparkling version of Moscato d’Asti and is made from 100% Moscato Bianco (Muscat Blanc) grapes, which thrive in the region’s craggy, limestone soil.
Asti Spumante is most commonly produced using the Charmat Method, where fermentation takes place in pressurized tanks; but some wineries prefer the Classic Method, and their bottles are labelled with Metodo Classico. The fermentation tanks are sealed off to trap carbon dioxide and carbonate the wine. The process is stopped early, which is why so much sugar remains and the wine tastes sweeter than many other Italian sparkling wines, and has a lower alcohol content.
The sparkling wine is typically light and fresh, with high acidity that balances out the sweetness, noted for its frothy bubbles, as well as strong fruity and floral aromas of Asian pear, peaches, honeysuckle, oranges, acacia, and nectarine.
As befitting a sweet wine, it pairs well with desserts and sweet treats such as white chocolate, though it also makes for a great pairing with charcuterie, Gorgonzola cheese (another of Piedmont’s regional specialties), or simply by itself as an aperitif.
Asti Spumante is a non-vintage wine and therefore best consumed one to three years after bottling. The wine is often considered cheaper and lower quality compared to other Italian sparkling wines, but is still noted for its authenticity in coming from a prestigious DOCG appellation.
The region of Asti is also known for producing other sparkling wines, such as light and crisp Moscato d’Asti (which has fewer bubbles than Asti Spumante), and a red sparkling wine called Bracchetto, which is lesser-known and has subtle aromas of strawberry and cherry.
Considered by many to be Italian’s finest sparkling wine (take that, Prosecco!), Franciacorta is made using the Classic Method (Metodo Classico), the same as esteemed French sparkling wines such as Champagne and Cava. This means that the wine’s secondary fermentation takes place in bottles, rather than in a vat or tank, resulting in smaller, more plentiful bubbles, and a subtler flavor profile.
The length of time of the secondary fermentation has a significant effect on the wine’s final taste – longer lees aging makes the wine richer in texture and more complex – and Franciacorta has the longest lees aging of any appellation in Europe.
The wine is named for Franciacorta DOCG, which is a small appellation located just south of Lake Iseo at the foot of the Alps in the Lombardy Lake District. It’s known for consistent quality, but due to the size of the DOCG, the wine can be difficult to find outside of the region, especially internationally.
Franciacorta is produced with a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, and Pinot Nero grapes, though there are other versions. Franciacorta Satèn is a dry sparkling wine made of only Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco grapes, which is produced with lower atmospheric pressure, and this results in a silkier, more lavish texture. Franciacorta Rosé has a base of at least 25% Pinot Nero.
The wine is delicate, dry, and complex, with white/yellow fruit and floral aromas, such as peach, golden apple, and ripe pear, followed by secondary notes of almond, hazelnuts, baked bread, and vanilla. Some compare the taste to Champagne, but the main difference is that the climate of Franciacorta is warmer, which means the former tastes somewhat richer and features more fruity tones.
Franciacorta is a versatile wine and pairs well with traditional Lombard desserts, such as bossolà (a Brescian dessert shaped like a donut) and sbrisolona (a crunchy, nutty, crumbly tart from Mantua), as well as pasta, risotto, white meat, seafood, cheese, and charcuterie.
A true Franciacorta must be aged for at least 18 months, while for vintage Franciacorta it’s 30 months. The wine is best served in a white wine or tulip glass, rather than a flute, as this allows the drinker to take in the full profile of aromas.
To use its full name, Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco is an Italian red sparkling wine made from red Lambrusco grapes (at least 85%) grown in the village of Sorbara, in the vicinity of Modena, located in central Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region.
Like Franciacorta, Lambrusco follows the Classic Method, where the secondary fermentation takes place in bottles or autoclaves, rather than tanks.
Lambrusco wines can be red or rosé, and are typically fragrant, fruity, floral, frothy, and acidic, with hints of strawberry. Although Lambrusco was once very sweet, producers now favor a more dry approach, with a slightly bitter finish.
These wines pair well with hearty dishes, such as grilled or braised meat, dishes with cheese-based sauces, and aged cheese varieties, such as Parmigiano Reggiano. A Lambrusco is best drank young.
Perhaps Italy’s best known sparkling wine, Prosecco is a sparkling white wine produced in nine provinces across the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions. It’s named after the former village of Prosecco, which is now a suburb of Trieste.
In Italy, true Prosecco must be made with at least 85% Glera grapes. The other 15% can be a blend of Verdiso, Bianchetta Trevigiana, Perera, Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, or Pinot Noir (vinified white) grapes. Glera wines made in the style of Prosecco outside of the DOC and DOCG designated areas cannot be called true Prosecco.
The Glera grape has a thin skin, moderately high acidity (perfect for sparkling wine) and typically produces a high yield, which means the wine is more neutral. Glera wines are usually light- to medium-bodied, with alcohol levels ranging from 8.5% to 12.5% for fully dry wines. Aromas include melon, peach, pear, honey, and white flowers.
As of 2020, a new rosè Prosecco has been approved for production, which must be made using a blend of Glera and Pinot Noir grapes, and is only applicable for the DOC.
Prosecco is made using the Charmat Method, named for Eugène Charmat, who patented a developed version of the method in 1907. This method includes a secondary fermentation that takes place in tanks, rather than bottles (as in the Classic Method). During this time, yeast consumes the sugar and as it ferments, carbon dioxide is released. The gas has nowhere to go, so the container becomes pressurized, which carbonates the wine and produces the signature bubbles.
The longer the wine is in the tank, the more aromas are preserved and the finer and more durable the bubbles are, and the bottle becomes more expensive. Charmat Lungo, which has a lees aging up to nine months, is the highest quality Prosecco. However, in general, the tank method is very efficient, which is why Prosecco can be very affordable, and a lot cheaper than Champagne.
Prosecco is versatile and pairs well with a wide variety of foods, such as cured meats, strong cheeses, fish, and Asian cuisines, particularly Southeast Asian cuisines, such as Thai, Vietnamese, and Singaporean, as well as Cantonese. This is because Prosecco is a great palate cleanser to drink with medium-intensity foods such as chicken, shrimp, pork, or tofu; while the sweet aromas and the bubbles match well with spice.
On its own, Prosecco should be served cold (between three and seven degrees Celsius) in a tulip-shaped glass. The tall and slender tulip shape helps preserve the finesse of the bubbles, while the larger bulb at the top helps to collect the wine’s floral aromas.
Prosecco is also drank on its own as an aperitif and used as an ingredient in cocktails, such as Bellini, Mimosa, Aperol Spritz, Hugo, and Sgroppino
Often left out of lists of Italy’s best sparkling wines, Trentodoc (Trento DOC or simply Trento) is one of the country’s most underrated appellations, located in the northeastern city of Trento.
Like Franciacorta, Trento sparklers are made from predominantly Chardonnay and Pinot Nero grapes, and are produced using the Classic Method. The key difference between Trento and Franciacorta is that the requirements for lees aging is not as strict for Trento, therefore some producers shorten the time, which means quality is not as consistent and thus, the price is lower. The alpine terroir also adds a distinct crispness, with a flavor profile of green apple skin, almonds, and white flowers.
FAQS About the Sparkling Wines of Italy
What is sparkling wine called in Italy?
Italian sparkling wines are usually labelled as “spumante” (foaming) or “frizzante” (sparkling), however many regional sparkling wines are labelled for the DOC or DOCG e.g. Prosecco, Franciacorta, Trentodoc, or Lambrusco.
Is Italian sparkling wine the same as Champagne?
As mentioned above, there are different ways of producing sparkling wines. For example, Prosecco is made using the Charmat Method, while Champagne is made using the Classic Method. The latter is more time-intensive and costly than the Charmat Method (which is why Champagne is more expensive), and it also produces smaller and longer-lasting bubbles. Neither method is better than the other, they’re just different.
Some Italian sparkling wines, such as Franciacorta, Trentodoc, and Lambrusco are also produced using the Classic Method.
What is the name of Italian Champagne?
The phrase “Italian Champagne” is a bit misleading, as Champagne is a specific sparkling wine made from specific grapes varieties, produced using a specific technique in a specific region in France. There cannot technically be an “Italian Champagne.”
However, like Champagne is France’s most famous sparkling wine, Prosecco is Italy’s. Yet, the grapes used, methodology, and terroir are very different. The sparkling wine closest to Champagne in terms of texture and taste is Franciacorta.
Is all Italian sparkling wine Prosecco?
No, there are many other types of sparkling wines produced in Italy, including DOC and DOCG wines such as Franciacorta, Asti Spumanti, Lambrusco, and Trento, detailed above.
What’s the difference between sparkling wine and Prosecco?
Like Champagne, the name Prosecco refers to a specific wine from a specific region. Prosecco is a sparkling white wine originally from the Valdobbiadene region of Veneto, Italy. The wine is made with Glera (Prosecco) grapes and produced using the Charmat sparkling winemaking method.
Glera wines made in the style of Prosecco outside of the DOC (controlled designation of origin) and DOCG designated areas cannot be called Prosecco.
Prosecco is one of the most falsified wines in the world, so when you’re buying Prosecco, check that the bottle is a product of Italy, read the label and look for the DOC or DOCG, as well as the names Valdobbiadene and Conegliano, then check that the wine is made using the Glera grape (it must contain at least 85% Glera to be true Prosecco).
Other Sparkling Wines of Italy
Does this guide to Italian sparkling wines have you itching for an indulgent glass of bubbles?
If you found this list of Italy’s most famous sparkling wines helpful, if your questions were answers in the FAQs section, or if you have more questions or even recommendations of your favorite Italian sparkling wines to add, let us know in the comments below.