Sparkling Sips: Brut Rosé, Prosecco and Asti from Martini & Rossi

The north of Italy is home to that country’s most famous sparkling wines, including Prosecco (Veneto), Franciacorta (Lombardy) and Asti (Piemonte). Martini & Rossi is based in Turin, the capitol of Piemonte. The company is thus well-positioned to complement their famous vermouth and aperitivos with high-quality, effervescent wines. They currently offer three: an Extra Dry Rosé, a Prosecco and an Asti.

Martini & Rossi Rose´ Extra Dry Sparkling Wine

I was stunned when I heard how inexpensive the Martini & Rossi Rose Extra Dry is, because it’s really very good. The wine is a shimmering, coppery pink in the glass with streams of fine bubbles. The nose is aromatic, but elegant and not overly fruity. Notes of under-ripe strawberry, mineral and tangerine pith predominate.

There’s some sweetness to the palate of this rosé, but much less sugar than some best-selling Champagnes, and only enough to help balance the mouthwatering acidity. It makes the wine a versatile partner for food. The flavors are more intense than the nose, with richer strawberry, plus some cherry, but less minerality. The fruit flavors linger pleasantly for quite some time. I rate it 88 points and, with a retail of $13.99, it’s an outstanding value. I went out and bought some myself.

If you’ve tried the Martini & Rossi rosé in the past, you may find the currently available vintage a little different. It consists solely of Glera (the Prosecco grape), Italian Riesling, and Nebbiolo. Past vintages have also included Brachetto. That’s a grape best known for sweet, sparkling reds and its absence in this vintage may have helped achieve the fairly dry palate and evident minerality.

Italian Riesling is an interesting grape. It’s known as Grasevina in Croatia, where it is the most-planted white grape. In some places, including North America, it’s called Welschriesling. But it has no more connection to Wales than it does “regular” Riesling. According to Jancis Robinson’s book, Wine Grapes, “Welsch” means foreign and suggests the grape came to Germany from another country. Others suggest it’s a reference to Wallachia, a region in Romania.

There’s no more consensus about the grape’s origin than about its name. It’s widely grown in central Europe though. In northern Italy, it makes low alcohol, high acid wines with mild flavor. That’s ideal for sparkling wines and the juice is probably principally responsible for the lively acidity of the Martini & Rossi Rosé.

Martini & Rossi Prosecco

The Martini & Rossi Prosecco is an appetizing sparkler. It’s aromas and flavors of apple flesh, apple skin and pear have an attractive tartness. Pretty notes of apple blossom enhance the nose and palate further. This is an off-dry wine, well-suited to food, but very drinkable on it’s own. The wine’s acidity leads to a clean finish. 87 points. Market price is $15 or less.

Asti is a crowd-pleaser with its sweet floral and fruity notes, low alcohol and gentle effervescence. Those same features make it a versatile food wine too. While sommeliers often reach for Riesling when there is Indian or Thai food on the table, Asti is a winning alternative. It’s also excellent with salty-savory cheese and prosciutto plates.

Martini & Rossi Asti

The “Asti method,” which involves keeping the Moscato grapes’ juice intensely cold and free from oxygen and then fermenting on demand, ensures that the wine is always fresh when it reaches the market. Martini & Rossi like to say that want to “put the grape in the bottle.”

And that’s what you get with the Martini & Rossi Asti, beguiling aromas and flavors of fresh, sweet grapes, delicate white flowers and nectarines. Intensity on the nose and palate is just right and the finish is lengthy. 87 points, $13 or less.

Copyright Fred Swan. All rights reserved.


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