When it comes to Italian sparkling wines, there are as many different opinions as there are varieties. The World War II generation loved the Piedmont-grown Asti that the boys brought home from Europe and, later, the mass-produced oversweet Asti Spumante that fueled many a basement party.
During the 1970s and 1980s, tastes shifted to the rosy Lambrusco from the Emilia-Romagna and Normandy regions that Argentinian and Australian growers would clone into irrelevance. If New Year's revelers have had a decent Bellini in the past few years, however, then they've likely had the current pride of Italy's sparkling wines: Prosecco.
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Grown in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Veneto regions of Italy and made slightly less sweet than other Italian sparkling wines, Prosecco is akin to Champagne only in bubbles and flavor. The methode champenois that produces Champagne requires it to ferment in the bottle for more than a year, while Prosecco's Chamat process only requires two months of fermentation and steel vats. That gives Prosecco only 9% to 10% alcohol by volume compared with 12% or more for the average Champagne.
Regardless of whether a buyer chooses semi-sparkling frizzante or fully sparkling spumante, bottles can be had for as little as $9 and seldom exceed $20. Low-priced Mionetto helped pour Prosecco into the mainstream and takes up the most Prosecco rack space, but varieties by Zardetto and Nino Franco are just as worthy of a New Year's toast.