While some sparkling wine leans more toward the contemplative than the whimsical, ideally it all finds its way by some degree into the "Fun" circle of the bubbly Venn Diagram.
I would love to see sparkling wine kick off many more occasions, making the ones that we don't outright label as "special," special nonetheless by virtue of bubble presence. One way to get your sparkle on more often is to embrace prosecco, the affordable effervescent wine from northeastern Italy. It is light, accessible, refreshing and often so inexpensive that you could go around collecting the change buried under your seat cushions and almost have enough for a bottle.
Prosecco is like Champagne in that it comes from a legally protected place. The wine is made predominantly of a white grape variety that has been called glera since 2009 and was called prosecco before that. The grape's name change was meant to protect the area's unique, established regional "brand," assuring that only winemakers within the prosecco zone could label their wines prosecco.
One reason the wine is so affordable is that it is made via the cost-efficient tank method, known as Charmat, and not via the pricier traditional method that involves secondary fermentation in bottles.
Prosecco can give off aromas and flavors of citrus, pear, apple, peach and honey, with varying degrees of bubble intensity. It works well as an aperitif and is very food-friendly, a good companion to everything from light appetizers to semispicy Asian fare. It is especially good with outside air and views. Make sure it is well-chilled, and you can't go wrong.
Prosecco also lends the bubbles to a few wine cocktails. One is the Bellini, which combines prosecco and peach juice. The Aperol spritz contains prosecco, the bitter liqueur and a splash of soda, garnished with an orange slice and sometimes a pimento-stuffed olive. There are other prosecco-friendly cocktails, too, including the classic mimosa.
Most prosecco is nonvintage, and the best of it comes from the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene D.O.C.G. region, the extra G guaranteeing the highest quality of the wine. At right are some prosecco wines from a recent tasting, listed in ascending order by price. All are prosecco D.O.C. wines, unless noted as D.O.C.G., which also allows the wine to carry the "Prosecco Superiore" designation. Most of them are made of 100 percent glera, and each one lands in the neighborhood of a moderate 11 percent alcohol.