SOME WINES are triumphs of winemaking talent applied to terroir, and some wines are masterpieces of marketing and sales. In the second category, there may be no more perfect paradigm than Prosecco rosé.
It’s hard to believe that Prosecco and rosé—two incredibly popular wines—weren’t officially joined until October 2020, when the Prosecco rosé category was approved by the EU. Some Prosecco rosés arrived in the U.S. late last year; others, in just the past few months.
‘We know Prosecco and rosé have been trending for years, and it’s fun to have something new to talk about.’
There weren’t a huge number of Prosecco rosés in any of the stores where I went shopping, though most of the retailers I spoke with told me they expected more soon. These wine merchants were excited, on the whole, to have a new category of wines to promote. But from a consumer’s perspective, is this new category any kind of guarantee of a greater quality wine? Among the 14 Prosecco rosés I purchased for my tasting, many of the bottles exhibited better marketing than winemaking, though there were some bright spots.
Although Prosecco rosé is technically new, Prosecco producers have been making sparkling rosé wines for years. Pink was so popular that a full 57% of the region’s 348 Prosecco producers were already making a sparkling rosé wine of some kind before the official category was introduced. (You’ll still find these wines in the market, though many of their producers are phasing them out.) Some Prosecco producers labeled their wines Prosecco rosé wines before the official declaration was made; those are the 2019 Prosecco rosés on shelves now. The 2020 Prosecco rosés were shipped to the U.S. in the first few months of this year.
True Prosecco rosés must meet certain criteria: They must be made from at least 85% Glera (the Prosecco grape), with Pinot Nero (aka Pinot Noir) accounting for the rest. They must be produced by the Charmat method, wherein the secondary fermentation (the part that produces the bubbles) takes place in a tank for a minimum of 30 days—though in the case of Prosecco rosé, a minimum of 60 days is required. The wines, unlike regular Prosecco, must be vintage-dated. And they may range from Brut Nature (very dry) to Extra Dry (actually sweeter).
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Many of the producers who have already been producing high-quality wines are excited about the new designation and the stricter quality standards it implies. For example, Gianluca Bisol, whose family has been cultivating grapes since the 16th century and is often credited with the creation of Prosecco, is an enthusiastic proponent of the new category. “The DNA of Bisol is about embracing change over 21 generations in the pursuit of excellence,” he wrote in an email. The 2020 Bisol1542 Jeio Brut Prosecco Rosé ($20), lithe and lively in a dry and savory style, was my favorite of all of the Prosecco rosés I tasted.
Mionetto is another Prosecco producer whose wines have consistently impressed me, and their 2019 Mionetto Extra Dry Prosecco Rosé ($20) proved attractively fruity, soft and a touch sweet. This wine is not to be confused with their Mionetto Extra Dry Rosé Spumante, which preceded the release of their Prosecco rosé—one of those potentially confusing non-Prosecco sparkling rosés still on the shelves.
Wine buyers like Keith Janosik, the business development manager of beer and wine for Central Market, the upscale Texas grocery chain, eagerly tracked the approval process for this new category of wine. “I was really excited,” said Mr. Janosik when we chatted a few weeks ago. He was particularly eager to get the Bisol1542 Jeio Brut Prosecco Rosé and bought as much as he could for the nine stores he oversees when the wine was released. It’s one of six Prosecco rosés he stocks.
Brian Gelb, the Bethesda, Md.-based sparkling and rosé wine buyer for the Total Wine & More chain of more than 200 stores, was equally enthusiastic about the new wine. “We know Prosecco and rosé have been trending for years, and it’s fun to have something new to talk about,” he said. Mr. Gelb was ready to buy in quantity as soon as the category was approved, but he found that some importers weren’t prepared for the demand. “I still don’t have La Marca in all stores,” he said, naming the big Prosecco brand imported by Gallo. He currently stocks between eight and 12 Prosecco rosés in stores nationwide. “I feel like, by the summer, it will be everywhere,” he said.
La Marca isn’t the only big brand to get into Prosecco rosé; Cupcake and Josh Cellars (both of which already produce Proseccos) have launched their own. I found the 2019 La Marca Prosecco Rosé ($15) pleasant in a soft, fruity way, but the 2019 Cupcake Prosecco Rosé ($12) was both sweet and bland. The Josh Cellars Prosecco Rosé ($13) was nearly undrinkable. My tasting notes included words like chemical and funky.
On a more positive note, the 2019 Luca Grucci Extra Dry Prosecco Rosé ($12) was a soft, peach-inflected drink, and the 2019 Brilla! Extra Dry Prosecco Rosé ($18, exclamation point included) was pleasantly fruity and fizzy—better than its overproduced packaging (pink glitter label and all) might suggest. Even more delicious, the 2019 La Gioiosa Brut Prosecco Rosé ($15) was charmingly vivacious with a lovely floral aroma, and the 2020 Natale Verga Extra Dry Prosecco Rosé ($13) was marked by red berry flavors and a refreshing acidity. Both wines went well with food, while the majority of the Prosecco rosés I tasted were more suitable as aperitifs.
While Cinzia Binda, export director of Casa Vinicola Natale Verga, noted that the creation of this category will make it much easier to sell their rosé wines, some Prosecco producers have their reservations. Primo Franco of Nino Franco, a top Prosecco producer, called the category “a pure distillation of marketing,” and I’m inclined to Mr. Franco’s point of view. I was, however, heartened to find that some winemakers are making truly good wines. Theirs are the bottles worth buying now.
OENOFILE / Best bets in the new Prosecco rosé category
1. 2020 Natale Verga Extra Dry Prosecco Rosé, $13
A lively, pretty off-dry wine enlivened by a bright acidity. Cinzia Binda, export manager of Casa Vinicola Natale Verga, calls it “a modern wine born on the wave of the world-wide success of Prosecco.”
2. 2019 La Gioiosa Brut Prosecco Rosé, $15
Lovely floral notes and a fresh, clean finish mark this elegant wine (whose packaging actually matches the wine inside). In my tasting, it was one of the rare truly dry Prosecco rosés and a surprisingly good match with food.
3. 2019 Luca Grucci Extra Dry Prosecco Rosé, $12
Soft and supple—a pleasurably uncomplicated aperitif. Its pale Provençal-pink color is the hue considered most desirable (i.e., marketable) in Prosecco rosés, according to the producers I interviewed.
4. 2019 Mionetto Extra Dry Prosecco Rosé, $20
A soft, peach- and berry-inflected, slightly sweet pink from a leading Prosecco label. The Prosecco rosé has replaced the Mionetto Extra Dry Rosé Spumante that wine buyers might still find on the shelves.
5. 2020 Bisol1542 Jeio Brut Prosecco Rosé, $20
A truly sophisticated take on Prosecco rosé from the first-rate producer often credited with the creation of Prosecco. Dry and savory with aromas of citrus and red fruit—a good match with food as well as a refreshing aperitif.
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