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An Insider's guide to restaurants, wine, spirits and culinary travel

quick sip: mionetto prosecco cartizze DOCG

In the heart of Prosecco country---that stretch between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene in the province of Treviso---there is no better location than the hill of Cartizze. Planted at 1000 feet, its 260 acres of vines are owned by 140 growers. Land here can cost as much as $2 million per acre, an unheard-of price in Italy, and the wine produced from this hill carries the designation of Prosecco Superiore DOCG. It is the Montrachet of Verona.

We’ve become so accustomed to shelling out ten bucks for a bottle of sparkling quaff that these details might seem a bit silly. Yet for every wine that becomes wildly popular in America and is then overproduced to the point of mediocrity, there’s usually a high-quality example that gets the trend started. So it is with Prosecco. Twenty years ago it was unknown outside Northern Italy, a regional wine used to welcome guests to restaurant and private homes; travelers had heard of it if they had visited Harry’s Bar in Venice and consumed a Bellini. Ten years ago the DOC and DOCG estate versions were fairly common in America. They’re still around today, but for many consumers the wine’s origins are secondary to its price.

For Americans, Mionetto is nearly synonymous with Prosecco. They introduced the category to the states in 2000, and remain the largest importer. Their saga began in 1887, when Francesco Mionetto opened his winery in Valdobbiadene. While their product line offers something for everyone, the Cartizze DOCG Dry ($20) stands at the top of the pyramid. Made entirely from the Glera grape in the Charmat method, it is a textbook example of what Prosecco should be.

It has a light straw color with green tints, along with streams of tiny bubbles unusually focused for Prosecco. The slightly yeasty nose gives off restrained whiffs of citrus. The wine is more expressive in the mouth than the nose might suggest: plump, ripe and medium-bodied, it displays pleasant flavors of lemon, lime, melon and vanilla. The mouth feel is nicely balanced between acidity and sweetness (Mionetto pegs the sugar at 24-26 grams per liter), and the wine overall is clean and fresh, inviting you to take another sip and another glass. The flavors expand on the palate and linger on the finish. This classy Prosecco is a good match for the usual suspects (finger foods, charcuterie), and could easily accompany a substantial fish course. Don’t let the price put you off: it might be double the going rate, but there’s twice as much quality here.

                     great wine for under $15?

It’s not a typo, oxymoron or stupid question. There’s a lot of very good wine at very low prices, but discovering it is a challenge---particularly when you’re strolling the wine aisle of your local supermarket or beverage superstore, staring at a tsunami of unfamiliar labels.

The answer is Mark Spivak’s Affordable Wine Guide to California and the Pacific Northwest, available as an e-book for $7.99. The book profiles 43 producers and contains hundreds of wine reviews, and gives you a clear-cut view of the good and the bad. The criteria are simple: What does the wine taste like? What kind of food does it go with? Is it worth the money?

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