Northern Italian Bubbles to Celebrate Spring

 It's officially springtime! Here in Pittsburgh spring often equals grey skies and rain, but this year we are enjoying beams of sunshine and glimmers of green as we approach April. At this time of year many people crave something bright and bubbly to fill their glass. For me, that typically means Champagne, but with Italian Wine Scholar-Prep underway, I'm pouring Italian bubbles this season.

More specifically: Northern Italian sparkling wine. While Italians make fine examples of bubbly up and down the boot (and on the islands, too), the country's finest sparkling wine appellations are concentrated in the north. From Turin to Milan to Venice, Northern Italy features a range of unique sparkling wine appellations, each with their own personality.

Whether you like fruity and fun or bold and traditional, there's something for you! Below you'll learn about my favorite designations and discover recommendations to try. Cheers! Or as the Italians say, "Cin cin!"

Prosecco Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG

If you're ready to level up your Prosecco game, there's a DOCG for that. "DOCG" is short for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, or controlled and guaranteed denomination of origin. It is the highest tier of the Italian wine designation system. Often these are the best quality wines, although it is true that many stellar wines exist at the DOC and IGT levels as well.

In the Prosecco region of Northeast Italy, the hilly area of Conegliano-Valdobbiane is home to a number of Prosecco DOCGs. Like all Prosecco, the DOCG bottlings require a high percentage of the grape Glera. What sets these apart is their sense of terroir. These special bottlings are from specific communes with stricter standards that elevate their expressiveness. DOCG Prosecco is redolent of fruit and flowers like clementine, peach, apple blossom, and acacia blossom.

Ca' Di Prata Extra Dry Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG*, $18

Nino Franco "Rustico" Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG*, $19

Bisol Crede Brut Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG, $21

At the DOC level, producers in the Prosecco region are now able to make rosé Prosecco! I recommend trying the new bottling from Ca' di Prata.

Pair with Korean tofu with spicy Korean ketchup sauce.

Franciacorta DOCG

Along with luxurious Milanese fashion houses, Lombardy is home to fine wines like Valtellina, Lugana, and today's subject: Franciacorta. Made via metodo classico (i.e. classic method, i.e. traditional method), this Italian sparkling wine is often compared to Champagne due to its grapes and production method.

In the Franciacorta blend you'll find Chardonnay, Pinot Nero, Pinot Bianco (max 50%), and Erbamat (max 10%). The wine undergoes secondary fermentation in the bottle and then enjoys a minimum of 18 months aging on its lees, giving it those toasty, yeasty notes that we love in Champagne. In the glass there are notes of juicy apples, toasted nuts, fresh baguette, and citrus zest.

Mirabella Satèn Franciacorta DOCG, $42

Mirabella Brut Rosé Franciacorta DOCG, $44

Ca' del Bosco "Cuvée Prestige" Brut Franciacorta DOCG, $39

Pair with risotto alla Milanese.

Trento DOC

To find this wine, look to the region of Trentino-Alto Adige in the northeast section of the country. Here you'll find Chardonnay, Pinot Nero, Pinot Bianco, and like Champagne, Pinot Meunier in the blend. Similar to Franciacorta, Trento DOC (or "Trentodoc") sparkling wines undergo secondary fermentation in the bottle—key to warm flavors and fine perlage. 

We acknowledged that DOCG is intended to signify the highest quality wines, but here in Trento DOC you'll find many exceptions to that rule. If you're looking for traditional flavors combined with an attractive quality-to-price ratio, this is the region for you!

Zeni 2015 "Mas Nero" Rosé Trento DOC, $45

Ferrari Brut Trento DOC, $25

Pair with lobster and corn fritters.

Alta Langa DOCG

The Alta Langa sparkling designation was created in 2002 to protect the brut spumante wines of Piedmont. Like its cousins Franciacorta and Trentodoc, the sparkling wines of Alta Langa are produced in the metodo classico. Here you'll find bold fruit flavors and more of those delicious biscuit notes. These wines are exclusively Chardonnay and Pinot Nero.

If you're serving Barolo with your primo or secondo course, trying starting with Alta Langa alongside the antipasto. Wine geeks will enjoy the contrast between very different wines from the same region, and gourmands will appreciate Alta Langa's bubbles to whet their appetite.

Ettore Germano 2016 Extra Brut Metodo Classico Alta Langa DOCG, $42

Mario Garibaldi 2015 "Matteo Giribaldi" Pas Dosé Alta Langa DOCG, $46

Contratto for England 2015 Brut Rosé Pas Dosé Alta Langa DOCG, $39

Pair with the ultimate Italian antipasto platter.


Next: French Wines I'm Swirling This Spring


*Samples. Read my full sample policy here.