Food & dining

sips

The best way to tour Cambridge? With a glass of bubbly in hand.

The fresh and fruity northern Italian sparkler Prosecco continues to surge in popularity. One local wine pro is making the most of the trend.

Wes Narron is chief wine ambassador at City Wine Tours, a five-year-old company offering weekend walkabouts in Boston-area neighborhoods. A guide leads groups through each urban locale, stopping at restaurants to educate about what folks are sipping. Participants learn to taste, select a great bottle, and pair wine with food. A couple of years ago, Narron noticed that the North End, Back Bay, and South End events consistently sold out, but interest in Harvard Square lagged behind. He and his team revamped that tour to showcase an all-bubbly array. It was an easy decision to make.

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“Anytime you pop a cork, people go ‘Ooh,’” he says. “It’s festive and puts people at ease.” The Cambridge-based tour now highlights pours like Champagne, Cava, and, of course, Prosecco.

According to Impact Databank — part of M. Shanken Communications, Inc., which also publishes Wine Spectator — more than 4 million cases of Prosecco were sold in the US last year alone. From 2014 to 2015, the category grew by more than 20 percent, making it the star of affordable bubblies. Contrary to rumors of a projected shortage due to bad weather, there’s plenty of the fizzy pour to be had.

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“Prosecco is something to drink every day,” Narron enthuses. Consumers perceive it as “more informal” whereas Champagne is still regarded by many as a special occasion libation. Made from the glera grape, the Italian sparkler is crafted in the charmat method. The second fermentation that creates the bubbles occurs in a pressurized tank rather than in a bottle.

The Italian trade association overseeing the wine made a big push in the last decade to promote the pour, and value versions (usually $10-$15) now dominate sales. That friendly price point is just one advantage. “Italian wines are easier to pronounce,” says the wine pro, in contrast to French wine.

Easy to pronounce and even easier to drink is Prima Perla Prosecco, one of Narron’s favorites. “It’s refined enough to drink by the glass,” he says, “but not so refined that you wouldn’t combine it with peach puree for a Bellini.” Aromas are clean and peachy, with citrus, stone fruit, and a little appetizing saline on the palate. Perky effervescence and modest alcohol content (under 11 percent) make this delightful for the porch or patio.

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Prosecco producers are now faced with the challenge of getting consumers to try higher-tier versions crafted from prestigious vineyard sites. What will it take to get people to view the sparkler as something other than a bargain pour?

“The growth of our wine culture will change that,” Narron says. “Anything that gets people to try a wine is a good thing. You become more curious and want to try different things.”

He already sees people branching out. Attendance is up for the all-sparkling tour.

City Wine Tours can be reached at 844-879-8799, citywinetours.com. Prima Perla Prosecco (around $10) is at Gordon’s Main Street, Waltham, 781-893-1900; Simmons Liquors, Boston, 617-227-2223; Norwood Wines & Liquors, Norwood, 781-762-9841.

Ellen Bhang can be reached at bytheglass@globe.com.
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