I’m starting to get the hang of this #stayathome thing. In normal times I cook just about every night; when Gabe and I need to get out and mingle, we rustle up a few friends and head to one of our neighborhood haunts.
But during COVID-19 lockdown, restaurants have limited their services to take-out or delivery only, which changes the whole meaning of a night out. Some cities are starting to ease dining restrictions but, here in Miami, we’re moving a little slower. And I’m totally okay with that, especially when I have a bunch of options for take-out, all within a two-block radius of home.
It has felt good to support the small businesses in our neighborhood, some of which opened just before the pandemic struck. We’ve tried a new-to-us eatery every week, discovering places that will become part of our regular rotation once we can reserve a table in the dining room.
Glamming Up a Night In
About a month ago, I was invited to sample three bottles of Prosecco Superiore DOCG and pair them with my favorite take-out meals. The idea was to support local restaurants while learning more about the high-quality sparkling wines from northeastern Italy.
How could I say no to that?
How Prosecco Wines Are Classified
As with most wine regions, Prosecco is classified into a number of categories based on the quality of the grapes, growing conditions, and production methods. The pyramid below illustrates the levels of quality defined by the Italian wine authorities:
The Prosecco DOC is Italy’s largest denominazione di origine controllata, comprising more than 34,000 acres. Maximum yields are high, and grapes may be grown in the Veneto or neighboring Friuli Venezia-Giulia. Most DOC Prosecco is simple, inexpensive, and easy to drink, but you won’t find much complexity.
Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG
When you add a G (for garantita) to the denominazione, you take a step up in quality: grapes must be grown on the hillsides between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, in the original Prosecco production zone. Comprising fewer than 15,000 acres in 15 communes, vineyard sites lie at higher altitude, with a southerly aspect, allowing grapes to ripen slowly and completely. Yields are lower than in the DOC, but still relatively high compared to other DOCG regions. Nevertheless, many producers apply stricter production standards than those dictated by the regulations, making high-quality Prosecco that punches way above its weight (and price tag.)
All wines must be at least 85% Glera (although many make 100% varietal wines) and the balance can come from international varieties or local grapes.
Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore Rive DOCG
This category represents the region’s cru system, in which 43 communes (rive) have earned the right to append their village name to the label if they observe maximum yield limits of less than 13 tons per hectare. Because there are many microclimates and distinct soil types making up the production zone, it’s not surprising that some have been identified as exhibiting site-specific characteristics in their wines.
Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG
Comprising just 107 hectares in western Valdobbiadene, this DOCG produces some of the finest examples of Prosecco. Scattered among the steepest slopes in the towns of Santo Pietro di Barbara, Santo Stefano, and Saccol, vineyards are planted in the region’s most ancient soils. Grapes benefit from a long, slow ripening season, and are often harvested later than those grown elsewhere. The wines reflect the unique terroir, offering ripe fruit and zesty herb aromas as well as the trademark minerality.
For more details on Prosecco production, visit www.prosecco.it.
Without Further Ado, Here Are the Wines
Wine #1: 2017 BiancaVigna Rive di Soligo Prosecco Superiore Millesimato DOCG (11.5% abv; $23 SRP)
This wine comes from one of the rive described above. Vineyards lie at 400 meters above sea level, on steep slopes of 70% gradient. That means lots of sunlight for the grapes, which turns into the lovely aromas and flavors associated with Prosecco. It is super-dry (noted on the label as zero dosaggio) and gives off ripe aromas of pear, apple, and white flowers. After some time in the glass, there were exotic notes of guava and pineapple too.
Wine #2: Cantine Vedova Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Casa Farive Extra Dry NV (11% abv; $11 SRP)
This wine was on the opposite end of the spectrum from the previous one: it is labeled extra-dry, meaning it has 16 grams/litre of residual sugar (as opposed to the BiancaVigna’s 2 grams/litre.) You can taste some sweetness but it is perfectly balanced by tart acidity, lingering on the long finish. This is a perfect match with spicy foods and dishes that have a slightly sweet element.
Wine #3: 2018 Col Sandago Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Vigna Del Cuc Brut (11.5% abv; SRP $18)
Oh boy! This wine knocked me for a loop. It was rich and more full-bodied than the others, owing to the calcareous clay soils in the vineyards. Aromas and flavors were a hedonistic melange of lemon and orange peel, ripe apple and pear, and a hint of white flowers. I felt like I was sitting in an Italian garden on a midsummer’s night, enjoying the peak of Nature’s beauty. One of the nicest Prosecco wines I’ve tasted.
Prosecco Superiore DOCG and Miami Take-Out: A Winning Combo
Did I mention that we have some kick-ass restaurants here in downtown Miami? Just about any food craving you have can be satisfied in a ten-minute walk. With our three bottles of Prosecco Superiore DOCG, Gabe and I set our sights on a new place we’d been wanting to try, as well as one of our favorites, a restaurant that’s been here since the 1990s.
Meal #1: Pubbelly Sushi Brickell
Gabe and I have had our eye on this place for a while but didn’t make it there before the COVID axe came down. We figured this was an excellent opportunity to sample the menu. We tasted wines 1 and 2 as we made our way through the platter. Here’s what we ordered:
Miso-glazed black cod with charred spring onions
Seared pork belly with orange peel
Hamachi sashimi with poblano pepper slices
Yellowtail Roll with truffled yuzu, green soy paper, and nori tempura flakes
So good! It’s no surprise that sparkling wine makes a great match with sushi but these two Proseccos worked for very different reasons. The BiancaVigna, super-dry as it was, worked with the saltier, umami-laden courses (especially the cod); the Cantine Vedove, with its hint of sweetness was a home run with the tangy sweet citrus of the yellowtail roll. A super-fun and delicious exercise in wine pairing!
Meal #2: Perricone’s Marketplace and Café
This place is a downtown classic: it’s been serving up homemade Italian food since 1996, predating almost every other restaurant in the Brickell neighborhood. While they’ve moved from their original location, the Perricone’s crew remains a reliable place for classic dishes like Chicken Parmigiana and Veal alla Milanese.
Which is exactly what we ordered!
Veal alla Milanese is one of my favorite dishes, which means I’m also super-picky about how it’s made. You gotta start with the best meat; then you gotta have the simply dressed salad on top. The batter has to be thick enough to stay crisp but not so thick as to be heavy. Yeah, it’s a Golidlocks kinda thing, and Perricone’s nails it every time. Even via delivery, where they separate all the items for you to assemble at home. The coating stays crisp, the salad stays fresh, and the consumer (me) stays happy.
We paired our comfort meal with wine #3, and it was a pairing Golidlocks would have approved of. This Prosecco was my favorite of the bunch: ripe lemon and mandarin orange flavors, dry but not brutally so; this bottle went down oh-so-easily. I’d love to have more of it in the fridge!
Sparkle at Home
I know many cities are starting to re-open, allowing folks to resume normal activities with a few restrictions. We’re just beginning the process here in Miami and I’m happy for the businesses as they welcome customers back. I think it’ll be a while before I jump back in to social activities with both feet. And that’s okay; we all have to do what’s right for us.
But I think we all can agree that a relaxing dinner at home, provided by one of our favorite local restaurants, is a treat we will always look forward to. What better way to celebrate those evenings than with a bottle of Prosecco Superiore DOCG bubbles?