By the Glass

Everything you need to know about Italian sparkling wine for Valentine’s Day

(Ellen Bhang for the Boston Globe)

Prosecco, the fizzy-fruity libation from the Veneto, has taken the sparkling-wine market by storm. You see it everywhere, blended into brunch cocktails and frequently on offer at bargain-bin prices. But like most wine categories, Prosecco exists on a spectrum. Nor is it your only choice when it comes to Italian sparklers. Selecting a terrific bottle for Valentine’s Day is easy with a little knowledge of the terminology on the labels.

To find a libation that’s more nuanced than an entry-level pour, look for the word “superiore.” You’ll find it on a heavy black bottle from Mionetto. The term describes the upper tiers of Prosecco produced in specific subregions of northeastern Italy. The Conegliano Valdobbiadene classification gets its name from two municipalities that anchor the territory — Conegliano to the east and Valdobbiadene to the west. Glera grapes used to make these pours are guaranteed to hail from this rugged, hilly topography, where producers and growers work interdependently to preserve distinctiveness and guard quality. Bubbles in most Prosecco, including bottles marked superiore, are created by the charmat method, where the second fermentation occurs in a pressurized tank. Count on lively, streaming bubbles in your glass.


Skip west from the Veneto to neighboring Lombardy and you’ll encounter sparklers crafted in the traditional method, where the second fermentation occurs in the bottle, as in Champagne. Here, you are sipping Franciacorta, crafted by producer Monzio Compagnoni. On the foil-wrapped neck, you’ll see “saten,” which designates a chardonnay-dominant blend that drinks dry. On the back label, the word “millesimato” indicates a vintage sparkler — in this case, 2010. This family winery deemed the year’s crop of chardonnay to be exceptional and set about vinifying the special pour, followed by several years of aging in bottle before release. The results are altogether appealing, with refined aromas and fine mousse on the palate.

Pick up a bottle designated “spumante extra dry” from Cantine Mucci and zero in on the back label. A couple of lines down, you’ll spy Torino di Sangro, a village near the Abruzzo coast, located on the calf of Italy’s boot. Instead of the trebbiano d’Abruzzo grapes you might expect, this blend showcases two grapes — falanghina and pecorino. The Muccis were the first in the region to plant falanghina, commonly associated with Campania, in the 1980s. Later, they began cultivating pecorino, a revived native grape that yields unique pours full of lemony, figgy flavors.


Pop the cork on one of these sparkling wines and prepare to impress.

Mionetto Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Robust, streaming bubbles convey juicy apples and a whiff of yeast. Enjoy its peachy tang, with perky fruit balanced by a hit of saline. Alcohol by volume (ABV) 11 percent. Around $20. At Gordon’s Main Street, Waltham, 781-893-1900; Eataly, Boston, 617-807-7300.

Monzio Compagnoni Franciacorta Saten, Millesimato 2010 Fast-moving effervescence creates a fine mousse, offering scents of fresh-baked bread, apples, and an attractively savory note. Palate-cleansing acidity makes this a versatile, food-friendly pour. ABV 13 percent. Around $18. At Ball Square Fine Wines, Somerville, 617-623-9500; Blanchard’s Wine & Spirits, Marshfield, 781-834-9068.

Cantine Mucci Spumante Extra Dry Soft, lower-pressure bubbles yield aromas of pear and tropical fruit, leading to flavors of yellow apple and citrus. This winsome sip refreshes, offering a clean finish. ABV 10.5 percent. Around $28. At Social Wines, South Boston, 617-268-2974; Savour Wine & Cheese, Gloucester, 978-282-1455.


Ellen Bhang can be reached at