Prosecco: cheap fizz. And…scene. It’s mind-boggling to think about the ascent and success of this Italian bubbly in the last decade or so, but one of the final hurdles for the region/category is to realize it’s not just inexpensive, cheerful, and a little cloying. I can think of no better prescription for overcoming these preconceptions than opening a bottle of Nino Franco Prosecco.
I was invited to dinner with Primo Franco, who I’d call a statesman of/for Prosecco. This year his family is celebrating the winery’s 100th anniversary. We opened four bottles that night. Let’s take a look at each, OK?
Nino Franco Rustico NV ($24)
This takes me back to my days in Chicago, starting out in wine retail, which is where I first had Nino Franco Prosecco. That was like…15 years ago. I also remember Triage Wines representing Nino Franco into the Seattle market. The Rustico is very fresh and pear-y. It’s powerfully refreshing and has an undeniable texture to it from a very slight sweetness. Now the sugar in here doesn’t make the wine sweet but provides balance and body. It’s probably one of the easiest-drinking wines in the world. Great with oysters and, also, bread. I don’t know if the latter is a weird thing to say. “Hey, buy this wine, it’s great with bread.” I’ve never been asked, “What wine goes with bread?” But, here’s your answer. Like good bread and butter, fancy-pants carbs and dairy.
Nino Franco Faive Rosé 2017 ($29)
Right now there’s no such thing as a rosé Prosecco because of the region’s rules, though that may be changing. Nino Franco does, however, give you a compelling reason to drink sparkling pink from the area. The Faive is 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. There are few red grapes in a blend adding more aroma and flavor in a small dose than Cab Franc. It really punches above its weight. This is delicious and the savoriness of Cab Franc gives the Faive a serious, unique personality.
Nino Franco Riva di San Floriano 2017 ($37)
I never thought I would have a laser-like Prosecco before but this single vineyard (San Floriano) offering cuts through anything: butter, pasta. Might even stop you in the middle of a sentence. Easily the most elegant Prosecco I’ve had.
Nino Franco Primo Franco 2017 ($37)
Pretty cool to be Primo Franco and not just be an invaluable source and resource for the past, present, and future of the region, but to also have your own wine. The Primo Franco has a touch of perceptible sweetness that perhaps made it not show as well as well shoulder-to-shoulder with the San Floriano. Though the more I think and read about this wine, it might be the one to cellar. Which is a pretty surprising thing to consider!
I did really appreciate the pairing suggestions on the winery website:
Unexpectedly great with salty snacks, meats and spicy foods. Traditionally served with pastries, fruit tarts, cake, macaroons and semi-frozen ice cream cakes or custards.
Ah, now I get it! This would be an amazing brunch wine. I’d probably rotate between donuts and a BEC with a lot of hot sauce, drinking the Primo Franco Prosecco in between each sweet then spicy bite.
So a big difference between Prosecco and other sparkling wines is that it doesn’t go through a secondary fermentation in the bottle. It’s made via the Charmat method; the wine’s second fermentation is in a tank. (The second fermentation is where you get bubbles.) Is there a different quality perception here, that bottle is better? Is this holding back people from spending more on Prosecco? Does anyone care about fermentation methods except some insufferable wine egghead like me? No one buys a bottle based on this crazy criteria.
But does the tank method have wine pros looking down on Prosecco? The lack of yeasty complexity putting a ceiling on its perceived heights? (Do I need to get into Col Fondo?) Or is it the waves of mediocre stuff? Is it not “cool”? I mean, there’s plenty of awful cheap wine from grape/method x, y, and z but that doesn’t stop people from recognizing a wide range of quality out there.
Parting Thoughts on Nino Franco Prosecco
Prosecco, like Cava or Cremant or anything, can run the gamut from cheap plonk, to good value, to very good to excellent. For P-L-E-A-S-U-R-E, for sheer pleasing power, I am happy to hand over $37 for a bottle of San Floriano. Honestly, I think once people start spending, say, $25 and up for a bottle there tends to be a need to over-intellectualize wine-buying decisions. Pleasure is underrated in fine wine.
Of course, I got to drink these wines for free, eating super-luxe scallops and ravioli (which were ungodly good at Marea, hats off to the cooks). So you can take my proclamations about Nino Franco Prosecco with a grain of salt or a whole grain loaf of bread or whatever.
With that caveat out of the way, the next time I am spending 40 bucks on bubbles I might buy Champagne. (Well, I will need more than forty but I can get most of the way there.) I might buy a very nice Cremant or perhaps an excellent Cava. Maybe even a domestic sparkler. Hmm, Tasmania? Something from Trento, perhaps.
But now thanks to Nino Franco, I’m elevating Prosecco as a contender in the (nearly) $40 category.
Or, heck, just get the Rustico or rosé and with the change grab some pizza.