Italy’s wine culture faces a conundrum. Long associated—in the U.S., at least—with bottles of Prosecco and Asti Spumante (Italy’s top-selling sparkling wines), Italian wineries are working to thrust other, less-familiar sparkling wines into the spotlight.
Nowhere is this truer than in the Trento D.O.C. appellation in Northern Italy. Italy’s other main region for producing sparkling wine is Franciacorta, within Lombardy, which has been producing since the 1960s. In Trento D.O.C., however, wine producers are toying with marketing campaigns and pairings to earn recognition by Americans.
While the idea is to produce wine that is as compelling as Champagne, these wineries are also setting themselves apart on the palate. As food-friendly as Champagne is, Italy’s sparkling wines offer more balance, elegance, a round mouthfeel, and an off-dry profile.
At the winery Ferrari (not associated with the car manufacturer), 90 percent of its annual production of 8 million bottles is consumed by Italians. Intent on expanding and reaching Americans, Ferrari last year rolled out an English-language website along with a social media campaign for sippers to tweet their love for the wine.
Ferrari is one of 41 vineyards commercially producing wine in Trento D.O.C., a blip on Italy’s map, yet coming into its own as a relatively new appellation. About 300 acres of vineyards outside Trentino produce a portfolio of 11 sparkling wines for Ferrari; seven of the 11 sparkling wines are available in the U.S. Its three most-celebrated varieties—Ferrari Brut, Perlé, and Giulio Ferrari—use Chardonnay grapes, one of the two dominant grapes in this region. (The other is Pinot Noir.)
Sparkling wines from the more well-known Italian region of Franciacorta—with Bella Vista and Ca’ del Bosco being two leading producers—typically sell for $50–$85 a bottle on the wine list. Champagnes, of course, carry a higher price point, typically $100–$350 a bottle. But most bottles of Prosecco and Asti Spumante are under $40 a bottle on a wine list, or $8 a glass.
Trento D.O.C. is a region new to many wine drinkers, as it wasn’t until 1993 that it gained protected-origin status (second only to Champagne, France) for metodo classico, one of four methods used for sparkling wines. In this case, the wine’s second fermentation is in a bottle, unlike tank-fermented Prosecco wines. “One is twice more complex and structured than the other,” says Raimondo Boggia, a sommelier and CEO/founder of Obikà Mozzarella Bar, with restaurants in Los Angeles and New York City, plus Japan, Dubai, the United Kingdom, and Italy. This difference directly impacts food pairings.