Italy is the ideal destination for wine lovers. You can add some Italian flair to your holidays by popping the cork on an Italian sparkling white wine. You can also make cocktails with these sparkling wines.
Let me just say that this is the guideline you should use if you are planning an Italy-centric party.
Sparkling wines from Italy
Let’s begin with the obvious: bubbly.
It is possible to know that the legal name “Champagne” cannot be used if the wine comes from France. Italy also has sparkling wines. However, the names of these wines are also restricted by geography.
There is great wine in all twenty regions of Italy. But there’s also sparkling wine all across the country. These are the most well-known Italian sparkling wines. This is not to say that there aren’t finer options in other regions, but it is because they can be difficult to find in these areas. These wines are made in sufficient quantities and exported outside of Italy so that you can easily add them to your home.
- Asti If you are old enough to remember anything prior to 1980s, this name might sound familiar. In the United States, “Asti Spumante”, a name that became very popular after World War II, was nearly universally poor quality and cloyingly sweet. It may also explain why many people shiver when they hear “Asti Spumante” today. The real thing is Piedmont, which is a sweet sparkling wine that can be used as a dessert wine.
- Prosecco Prosecco is probably the most well-known Italian sparkling wine. It is made from Veneto and, although technically it’s a dry wine, it is often noticeably sweeter that Champagne (though it’s not as sweet like Cava). Prosecco is usually sparkling, but you can also find semi-sparkling (“frizzante”) in Italian. Prosecco is a popular summer drink due to its lightness. However, it can be enjoyed all year round and used as the base for many cocktails using sparkling wine (see below).
- Lambrusco This is my favorite Lambrusco since the first year I shared a light, fruity red Lambrusco with family for Thanksgiving. It tasted almost like cranberries! Not all Lambrusco tastes sweet. The majority of Lambrusco, from Lombardy as well as Emilia Roma is reddish and dry. Asti and Lambrusco suffered the same fate. For a while, the only Lambrusco that most people had had outside of Italy was sickeningly sweet. If this sounds familiar, I urge you to try a Lambrusco real. If you are looking to add some festive color to your bubbles, this article will provide details on some great red sparkly options available from Italy.
- Franciacorta This sparkling wine is made using the exact same process as Champagne. It comes from Lombardy. This method is also known as “Metodo Classico” in Italy or “Metode Champenoise” in France. It involves letting the wine ferment (which is how the bubbles are formed) in wine bottles before bottling. This is a more expensive method for wine producers, and the wines are more expensive to buy. However, these wines usually have more bubbles and are more rare. A nice bottle Franciacorta will likely cost more than Prosecco, although it is still less expensive than Champagne.
For your next trip to Italy, learn more about wine sampling in Italy
Festive Italian Cocktails
Prosecco, as we have already mentioned, is the perfect sparkling wine to make any number of bubbly cocktails. Prosecco’s slightly sweet flavor makes it a great choice for many cocktails.
A good Prosecco is something you will enjoy. However, a Franciacorta can be a great choice as you’ll be adding other flavors to it. These fizzy drinks are great for the holidays or anytime.
Can I suggest something for tonight?
- Bellini This Italian classic was created for Prosecco. In a glass of wine, pour a puree made from white peaches and add Prosecco. You can substitute white peach nectar for regular peach nectar. However, the drink will not have the signature pale pink color (it always looks just like a grapefruit to me).
- Spritz – The Spritz to me is a summer beverage. This drink is meant to be enjoyed on a sunny patio with chips or nuts before you have dinner. It’s so good that I am including it here as a festive and bubbly cocktail to use in the winter. The color reminds me of sunsets, which I think is a good thing. Another cocktail from Venice, this one was also created for Prosecco. Mix the amaro you prefer (I prefer Aperol), with Prosecco, and then serve it over ice with an Orange wedge.
- Sbagliato The term “sbagliato,” which means “wrong”/”mistaken”, is used to describe this drink, which uses Prosecco instead of gin. Mix Campari with sweet vermouth (I prefer Aperol, but I know there’s another “sbagliato” ingredient to add to this drink), and pour into a flute. Top with Prosecco.
Warm Italian Drinks
Italy has a number of fine options for drinks that can be enjoyed warm or cold.
- Vin Brule – Italy’s version mulled wine is called “burned wine” in French. However, you don’t have to cook it long enough for the alcohol to be removed. You can add more booze if desired (brandy and cognac are good choices). Vin brule is an easy recipe to experiment with until you find the right combination. You can use lemons, oranges and cloves as well as vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks and ginger root. This is a great recipe to make large batches for parties.
- Caffe Corretto– Do you remember how “sbagliato”, which means “wrong,” means? Well, “corretto,” means “corrected” and “caffe corretto”, which is a shot espresso mixed with the liquor of your choosing. As if regular Italian coffee were “sbagliato”. Oh, Italy.) The most popular additions are sambuca and grappa, but you can also add any other flavor you wish.
- Cioccolata Calda Italian hot chocolate, ” Cioccolata Calda,” is enough reason to travel to Italy in winter. This one doesn’t require any alcohol to make me fall in love with it. You’ll need to eat a small portion with a spoon. It almost has the consistency of pudding. Italian bars have machines that constantly stir the mixture so that it doesn’t burn the bottom or form a chocolate crust.