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Monday, July 21, 2014

Why is Prosecco so popular in America? Thank Mionetto for the Philip S. Kampe

                                                  Brut DOC--the 'classic Prosecco'

My wife’s family owns a restaurant, La Capannina, on the island of Capri. For the past twenty or so years, we have visited and stayed with our relatives, the DeAngelis family.

Upon arrival at the quaint harbor in Capri, Antonio and his wife Aurelia, would greet us with a glass of Prosecco in hand. They always exclaimed joyously, ‘Welcome to our island, the land of dreams’.

We toast and believe if there is a heaven, the Isle of Capri is where we want to be and La Capannina would be where we would want to eat our last meal.

Twenty years ago Prosecco was not a common word in a bar or restaurant in America. In fact, in 1997, less than 500 cases of Mionetto Prosecco, now America’s most popular brand, were sold in the states.

During the years since our initial visit to Capri in 1995, Prosecco has captured the hearts of Americans. Sales for Prosecco have averaged gains of 30-35% per year for the past five years.

Mionetto sales increased a whopping 62% in 2013.

I began to wonder why is Mionetto leading the category of Prosecco sales in the states? The answer is simple.

Mionetto has been educating the public about what Prosecco is and what it is not. For years, I have been going to Chelsea and Soho art districts in Manhattan for art gallery openings on Thursday evenings. I noticed at several openings that when I asked for a glass of Champagne, the pourer would respond, ‘This is not Champagne, it is Prosecco.
I will gladly pour a glass of Prosecco for you’.

And then the education began.

The conversation by the pourer of Mionetto was focused.  ‘What I am pouring  is Prosecco, an everyday, fresh wine, unlike Champagne, which is used for special occasions’.

We talked about the process of making Prosecco versus Champagne and why you drink Prosecco immediately and why it doesn’t age well. The Glera grape that Prosecco is made from is not an aging grape, unlike Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which are used for aging in Champagne.

The mantra is: Prosecco is about ‘freshness and nothing more’.

                                          'Il' Prosecco with the bottle cap closure

So, my Prosecco journey began in the 90’s.
And America followed twenty years later.

During the years, I have purchased hundreds of bottles of Prosecco —some from $8 a bottle and a few from special plots for up to $20.
As of late, I have found that the most consistent and fresh Prosecco in the market is from Mionetto.
They bottle upon demand-who does that?

The company was founded by Francesco Mionetto in 1887. His grandson, Sergio Mionetto, was the first to introduce the Chatmat technique to the area in the mid 1940’s. The bubbles are the result of the secondary fermentation that occurs in stainless steel tanks. The Prosecco sits in the tank until it is bottled.

Prosecco is made from the Glera grape, grown in the Veneto region of Italy.

Each producer has its signature style. My favorite producer is Mionetto, who bottles on request, as I mentioned earlier, resulting in the freshest Prosecco in the marketplace.

Below is a list of several Proseccos, all from Mionetto, that I recommend, which are in the under $20 range.

Brut DOC ($12.99) The signature Prosecco with the orange label. This is my ‘go to’ Prosecco for many reasons. Apple and pear are the dominate flavors. Low price, high quality. It can be used as an aperitif or for a cocktail. I use it for St. Germaine and mimosas.

‘Il’ Prosecco ($9.99) Somewhat sweet with highlights of apple and citrus, this cap closure bottle of Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio is both delicate and soft on the palate. Yes, its not made from the Glera grape, but its freshness and acidity are exceptional, well worth the under $10 a bottle price tag.

Organic Prosecco DOC ($14.99) Certified 100% organic, with Glera grapes from Vazzola in the Treviso region, this Prosecco is dry, like a Brut, with hints of green apple, mango, papaya and guava. Aromatically, a hint of elderberries dominate this extraordinary Prosecco.

Superiore Valdobbiadene DOCG ($17.99) The Glera grapes are grown in one of the premier Prosecco areas, Valdobbiadene, where the surrounding hills capture the essence of what Prosecco can be at its best. This Prosecco is elegant and creamy with hints of honey, vanilla and green apple.

                                           100% Certified Organic Prosecco
                                            Superiore Valdobbiadene DOCG
                       Valdobbiadene Superior Di Cartizze DOCG

If you dare to move up the Prosecco scale to what is considered by many as the ‘Top Prosecco’, try Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore Di Cartizze DOCG ($32). It is considered the ‘Grand Cru’ of Prosecco. It is all about creamy lightness and complexity.

In summary, Prosecco is an important segment in the wine and spirits category. Possibly it is due, in part, to what the Mionetto family has done through their marketing philosophy, which was straight forward. They have made the consumer aware that Prosecco is an everyday sparkler, unlike Champagne. Prosecco is all about freshness and unlike Champagne, does not age well.

What our society has turned into is a fast paced, show me what you have immediately society that loves products that are ready to consume. Waiting for a bottle of wine to age to twenty- somethings will take an eternity.
Open a bottle of Prosecco now and we will be happy, as a generation.

And that is what Mionetto has capitalized on. They see the future—TODAY.
Philip S. Kampe

Friday, July 18, 2014

What determines the COLOR of a Provence Rose? Adapted from Vins de Provence by Philip S. Kampe

Shades of Pink: What Determines the Color of a Provence Rosé?

Grape variety, climate, winemaking processes all play a role

New York, NY - The rosé boom that has taken hold across the United States has created a new thirst — not just for crisp, food-friendly pink wines, but also for a better understanding of how a dry rosé wine acquires its color and character. In Provence, the birthplace of rosé wine and the world’s fine rosé leader, winemakers take the color of their pink wines very seriously.
Researchers at the Center for Research and Experimentation on Rosé Wine in Vidauban, Provence, have been studying the question of color since 1999, when the center — the world’s only research institute dedicated to pink wine — was founded. Director Gilles Masson and his team have identified four factors that determine what shade of pink a Provence rosé will exhibit — whether it’s lighter or darker, whether it tends toward a purplish hue or leans more toward coral. The first two factors are the grape variety and the climate.  
  • Grape variety. All Provence rosés are made mainly from red grapes, such as Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Tibouren, Carignan, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Some varieties naturally contain more pigment in their skins than others, and this greatly affects the amount of color that’s released into the clear juice. Grenache grapes, which are the most prevalent in Provence rosés, are lightly pigmented, resulting in paler pink wines. Rosés with a significant percentage of Syrah grapes in the blend will often have a slightly deeper tint because of Syrah’s more intense pigmentation.
  • Climatic conditions. As a region with varied terrains, Provence sees clear differences in temperature, sun, and soil from place to place. For example, vines growing in view of the Mediterranean Sea experience different conditions than vines planted farther north, in the foothills of the Alps. For five years in a row (1999–2003), the rosé research center made 14 batches of rosé wines from grapes grown in 14 locations throughout Provence. Each batch was made using exactly the same grape varieties and vinification methods — yet the color variations among the samples are striking. And along with differences in the shade of pink came variations in acidity, aroma, and flavor. “We have demonstrated that, like great white and red wines, rosé wines are also ‘wines of terroir,’” said Masson of the research center.
The other two factors influencing the color of Provence rosés have to do with the winemaking process: temperature control throughout vinification and the length of time the skins are in contact with the juice.
  • Temperature control during winemaking. The freshness found in a chilled glass of Provence rosé points to one of the skills of the local winemaking trade: the mastery of cold temperatures to minimize oxidation and coloration. “Controlling the temperature is essential to the production of the pale, aromatic, round rosé wines that are typical of Provence,” Masson said. Provence winemakers were the first to invest in cooling technologies, which are now standard across the region. But temperature control in Provence begins at harvest (conducted at night, when the grapes are their coolest) and includes the use of refrigerated presses, thermo-regulated fermentation tanks, and cold aging facilities — all to preserve the freshness and color of the wine.
  • Skin contact time. The final factor in the paleness of a pink wine is determined by length of time the dark grape skins are in contact with the clear juices. The shorter the time, the paler the wine — which is why Provence’s palest rosés are those made via the direct pressure method: the grapes are pressed right after being picked in order to minimize skin contact and maximize purity and aromas. More deeply shaded rosés are those whose grapes were crushed and then allowed to soak (or macerate), skins and juice together, for a precisely determined amount of time (2 to 20 hours) and at a specific temperature, before the pink juice was released into the fermentation tank.
As the gold standard for rosé wine, Provence remains committed to investing in the art and science of rosé winemaking, including color analysis, for the benefit of all who enjoy their beauty, freshness, and balance.
**I believe this is a great article that points to the 'Wines of the Terroir' and discusses the pigmentation of the roses from Provence. My belief is that it is useful for the consumer and especially the retailer to understand the 'why' is rose that color discussion.

**Philip S. Kampe
Wine Media Guild  member