Bring on The Bubbles – A Potted History of Prosecco
Who doesn’t love Prosecco? Although the delicious bubbly drink is a relative newcomer to the UK scene, it has long been popular in Italy, where it has been made for many centuries. Due to its burgeoning popularity, Prosecco is now one of the top selling beverages in the world; it even eclipsed that of Champagne in 2013! Fortunately, the Italian wine industry has continued to deliver: its 2015 and 2017 vintages are widely considered to be among the absolute best. While some may be content to pop down to the local supermarket for a bottle or two, I know a much better way for any wine lover to experience this very special bubbly in a more unique and intimate way: an Italian river cruise.
Early History The history of Prosecco dates back centuries and there are many conflicting theories about its origin. The most likely one links it back to the times of the Roman Empire, though it only started to become widely famous in the 1750s. About a century later, Count Marco Giulio Balbi Valier managed to cultivate a grape he named Prosecco Balbi that helped the wine become even more prominent. The watershed moment for the entire Italian winemaking industry came in 1876 with the founding the Congliano’s School of Winemaking. Since then, the industry has continued to perfect their production techniques for sparkling wine, which has only strengthened its vitality and popularity. In 2013, the Italian Economic Observatory reported that 307 million bottles were sold worldwide, compared with 304 million bottles of Champagne – the Italians beat the French at sparkling wine for the first time ever. Quite a feat! Prosecco and the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Region Fizz has become increasingly popular in the UK in recent years, and it is easier than ever to pick up a bottle from your local supermarket. But do you know where it comes from? Prosecco is produced in the province of Treviso, in picturesque north-eastern Italy. The grapes demand a particularly warm, temperate climate, which is exclusively found in the hills between the two towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. These two places have a very interesting relationship: Conegliano is known as the cultural heart of the area; it is home to the School of Enology and associated research stations. Valdobbiadene, on the other hand, holds the annual National Exhibition of Sparkling Wine and is the production centre.
While the area’s pleasant climate made it a popular holiday spot for prominent Venetian nobles in the past, today it is home to more than one hundred wineries and companies producing the delicious tipple that we all know and love. Seeing it for Yourself An Italian river cruise is the ideal way to explore the country’s vinous history and culture. After all, Prosecco always tastes better in Italy – especially on a deck of a luxury hotel barge as it wends its way down the Po. Chin chin!