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Thursday 11 June 2015

The rise and rise of Prosecco in Australia

In the beautiful Prosecco region, in the hills of the Veneto overlooking Venice, they make sparkling wines that are even more popular than those of Champagne. 

Prosecco is all the rage right now because its wines are all about freshness and immediate drinkability. 

Prosecco is often enjoyed as a spritz (mixed with aperol or campari) or with peach juice, as part of the classic Bellini cocktail. It is usually made from the indigenous glera grape (itself sometimes known as prosecco), although other varieties are allowed. 

Prosecco is largely produced using the charmat method, in which secondary fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks. This makes the wine cheaper to produce, and has resulted in a global explosion of interest.

There is a long history of winemaking in the Veneto, dating back to Roman times, while prosecco in Australia is a relative newcomer, albeit a very successful one - and a cause of much angst to Italian producers, 

Tucked away in a quiet corner in the high country of north-east Victoria, the King Valley is a little slice of Italy Down Under (you might have spotted it featured on Masterchef). 

The Dal Zotto family's prosecco vines
This region was once tobacco country, but over the past 40 years it has become renowned for producing wines made from alternative grape varieties, many of them crafted by Italian families who have lived in the region for generations and who welcome visitors to their rustic cellar doors.

The Dal Zotto family has a rich Italian heritage and pioneered prosecco in Australia.

Family patriarch Otto Dal Zotto was born in Valdobbiadene in the Veneto, home of Italy’s favourite sparkling wine. He migrated to Australia in 1967 and the Dal Zottos produced Australia’s first commercial prosecco. 

“Across our vineyards, the result for us is that it is the perfect place to grow and make not 
only the varieties that wine lovers are very familiar with (such as riesling, chardonnay, 
cabernet sauvignon, merlot and shiraz) but also indulge our passion for exploring 
innovation with Italian varieties,” he says.

A second generation of Dal Zottos has joined Otto and wife Elena with sons Michael as 
winemaker and Christian as marketing manager.

Otto Dal Zotto walks in his vineyard
Since the first plantings in 2000, other King Valley winemakers have followed suit - Brown Brothers, Chrismont, Pizzini (below), Ciccone and Sam Miranda.

In 2011, all six joined forces to create an exciting new food and wine trail especially for lovers of the sparkling Italian white. 

Intimate tastings with the makers, savouring rustic Italian cuisine and conversations over a game of bocce, are all part of a trip along the King Valley Prosecco Road. 

And there is not likely to be any change to the name any time soon. 

"Prosecco is a grape variety and Australian producers can use that name for wines sold in Australia and other non-EU markets, as long as the wine is made from those grapes,” says Steve Guy from the Australian Wine and Grape Authority.

"But any Australian producer looking to export prosecco to the EU must label their wine as glera."

For details visit

Jacob's Creek, Yellowglen and other leading producers are also now making prosecco - bringing the total to 30 or more Australian producers. 

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