The Wide World of Italian Bubblies (#ItalianFWT)


Rotari Flavio Riserva Brut Trento DOC with Coffee Pot Rock, Sedona in the background

I think we’ve established that I have a deep love for the fizz! I love bubblies of all kinds, but I have to give it up to Italy for the diversity of styles. I really don’t think any other country can top them in this respect, so this week I thought we’d take snapshot looks at some the main styles they make and what differentiates them.

It is the holiday season, after all, to pop open some bubblies!  . . . Then again,  I always think it's time to pop open bubblies.


Note: This post features media samples. No other compensation was received and all opnions are my own.



Cooking to the Wine: Pezzuoli Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro with Antipasto Pizza

I went into deeper depth in this post, but here are a few basics.

Where: Emilia-Romagna, Italy. This area is a culinary powerhouse – this is also the home of Prosciutto, Parmigiano, and Balsamic Vinegar!

Method of production: Lambruscos are mostly made through the tank method, but there are traditional method examples. (We’ll get into those in a moment.)

Styles: So many! (And it’s not all sweet.)
A lot people think all Lambrusco is off-dry to sweet, but it actually comes in all styles, and a lot are very dry. On the label you might see these terms: secco for very dry, amiable for off-dry, and dolce for sweet.
There are also rosé and white versions.

Lambrusco is the name for both the grape and the place.  

More specifically, it’s actually the name of a group of related grape varieties. There's among the country's oldest and there are over some 60+ clones, but the three most important are: 

  • Sorbara  (fragrant and aromatic)
  • Salamino (fuller bodied and aromatic)
  • and Grasparossa (full-bodied with lots of tannins)

There are 8 different Lambrusco DOC’s in total: Colli di Parma Lambrusco, Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro, Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce, Reggiano Lambrusco, Colli di Scandiano e Canossa Lambrusco, Modena Lambrusco, and Lambrusco Mantovano.

Flavor profiles:
With so many styles you can imagine that there’s a wide variety of flavors associated with these wines. You might find fruity red berry and cherry notes in a Lambrusco di Sorbara along with flowers and citrus notes. Lambrusco di Grasparosa is far more assertive with dark berries and black cherries, balsamic herbs, and a good bit of tannin. Salamino is somewhere in between – fruity and aromatic like the Sorbara, but deeper like the Graspararosa, but without as much tannin.

Pairings: Bubblies, in general, are really food-friendly, but Lambrusco gets extra points for being able to work well with meaty dishes. Pizza, pasta, and charcuterie. It tends to tame salty and fatty foods in a wonderful way. Also, white versions are amazing with sushi!

Traditional Method

Contratto Millesimato and Vitello Tonnato Two Ways

Where: A few different regions in Italy specialize in traditional method sparkling wines. Franciacorta in Lombardy is probably the best-known area in Italy for this style, but Trento DOC in Trentino-Alto Adige also makes some lovely versions as in the picture above. Although not as well-known, the first wines made in this style in Italy were made in the Piedmont region, and the area has the Alta Langa DOCG dedicated to this style of bubblies. We actually visited the first house to make wines in this way in Italy and shared the experience in Classically Contratto: Beautiful Wines from Italy's Oldest Sparkling Wine House.

Method of production: Traditional method is basically just the term we use for wines made in the style of Champagne, but not from Champagne. You might also see the terms méthode traditionnelle, metodo classico, or méthode Champenoise.

This method involves making a still base wine first. The wine is then bottled with a mixture of yeast, wine, and sugar to start a second fermentation which creates those lovely bubbles! For this style, the second fermentation must occur in the bottle. As the yeasts die off, they remain in contact with the wine for many months before they’re removed (how long varies by region) via a method called disgorgement. During that time the lees (dead yeast cells) are in the bottle, they give the wine all kinds of yummy, toasty flavors. My post on our visit to Contratto goes through all the details in depth. I invite you to check it out as it was a really informative visit.

Grapes: This can vary by region, but the classics are Pinot Noir (or Nero in Italian)  and Chardonnay, as in Champagne. You’ll also see Pinot Bianco quite a bit in Italy.

Flavor profiles: Those toasty notes are the differentiating factor of any traditional method wine. However, with a lot of the Italian versions, like Franciacorta or the bottle of Rotari Flavio Riserva Brut Trento DOC from Trento pictured at the top and here below, I often get riper, rounder fruit notes when compared to Champagne – like a baked pear versus a crisp green apple. They vary of course, though.


Anything fried! These wines are great with fried chicken and potato chips. Popcorn is also a good choice for these.
Seafood: Lobster, oysters, caviar, sushi.
Goat cheese
Salty foods like popcorn.
Egg dishes

I received this bottle of Rotari Flavio Riserva Brut Trento DOC (Avg. price $35) as media sample and we enjoyed it while on vacation in Sedona, recently. To me it kind of tasted like the sunset we were enjoying while sipping it, with notes of golden apples, baked pears, brioche, and ginger spice.

Prosecco (From all the tiers)

Three Nights of Prosecco Holiday Fun: Carbonara, Sabering, Friends, with a Side of Pear Endive Spears

Where: Northeastern Italy, predominantly Veneto, but the larger Prosecco DOC also crosses into Friuli-Venezia Giulia. We’ve explored Prosecco in greater depth a couple of times before, here and here, but it’s helpful to know that there is a quality pyramid with various tiers as described in this infographic. 

Image courtesy of the Consorzio of  Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG.

The original zone of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG is fully in Veneto. It’s a very specific, small, hilly area at the foot of the Dolomites. The larger DOC area covers flatter plains that spread out from this hillier terrain. There are a couple of more specific sub-regions within the DOC: Treviso in Veneto and Trieste in Friuli. Asolo Prosecco DOCG comes from the Colli Asolani, another hilly area across the river from Conegliano-Valdobbiadene.

Prosecco Superiore DOCG tends to be made up of smaller producers; however, among the bigger operations, many make bottlings in both tiers. These make for interesting comparisons, as it makes it easier to see the variations in complexity between the quality levels. Interestingly, the difference in price between the tiers is often just a few dollars. 

We enjoyed this sample bottle of Val D'Oca Prosecco Extra Dry DOC with pasta in Alfredo sauce, with chicken, veggies, and bacon bits. The wine cut through the richness of the sauce nicely and matched the flavors well. It showed notes of green apple, pear, lime, and white flowers. The wine wasn't super complex, but light, simple, fresh and balanced with a hint of roundness to the texture. It made for easy, pleasurable sipping! Val D'Oca farms sustainably and makes wines along the various tiers of Prosecco.

Method of production:
Typically these wines as made via the tank method (aka Charmat method/ Martinotti method/ cuve close ), although there are examples made in other ways such as the traditional method. Instead of the second fermentation happening in a bottle, it happens in a tank. The greater surface area results in less contact between the wine and lees, which mean less of the toasty notes and a more fruity profile.

Grapes:  Glera is the star grape. It was actually known as Prosecco until the name was changed in 2009.  It is semi-aromatic and production via the tank method helps to highlight its floral and fruity notes.
Up to 15% of other grapes are allowed including international varieties such as Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, and Pinot Grigio.

Styles:  Wines are made in a full range from extremely dry to very sweet. The most traditional style is Extra Dry, which is off-dry. Most of the time, good examples just come across as balanced and the hint of sweetness left in the wine helps to round it out and enhance the fruit notes.

Within the DOC zones, you’ll find lightly sparkling Frizzante and more bubbly Spumante, as well a still wines, which are known as Tranquillo. It’s also very worth looking out for the Cartizze wines from Prosecco Superiore DOCG, which come from a single hill of the same name. These are typically (but not always) made in a sweeter style, but show immense depth and complexity. There are also bottles with ‘Rive’ designations, which are terroir-driven wines from specific slopes.

Another fun style to look for are the Sui Lieviti/ Col Fondo wines. (The category name is in flux at the moment, and fairly confusing, but described in this article by Kerin O’Keefe.)  Either name points to the presence of lees which are left in the bottle. They make the wine cloudy, but also add texture and complexity. This a very traditional style and tend to be less fizzy.

Flavor Profiles: As you might guess from the description of how its made, Proseccos tend to be fruitier than traditional method wines, which have more brioche and pastry notes. Crisp apples, pear, white peach, melon, and floral notes like honeysuckle are typical notes of classic Prosecco styles.

Spiced & spicy cuisines such as Chinese, Indian, Thai. It’s one of our favorite pairings with Sichuan food!
Charcuterie and cheese
Savory dishes with fruits in them

Cooking to the Wine: Sorelle Bronca Extra-Dry Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG with Poached Chicken with Pears and Gorgonzola.

Full disclosure, I sometimes work in a PR capacity with the Consorzio of  Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG.

Moscato d’Asti & Asti

I admit I haven't yet tried this bottle of Teresina Moscato d'Asti, but I like the golden rooster on the label.

Where: The wines originate in the town of Asti in the Piedmont region in northwestern Italy.

Grapes: Moscato (aka Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains)

Method of production: The wines are made via the Asti method, which is a variation of the tank method developed in the 16th Century by Giovan Battista Croce. Grape must is filtered and kept chilled until it’s needed. Fermentation then takes place in a pressurized tank, and as yeasts convert the grape sugars to alcohol, carbon dioxide gas is released as a byproduct. Some gas is deliberately kept trapped in the wine, which creates the sparkle. When the alcohol level reaches around 5 percent (for Moscato d'Asti), the wine is chilled, killing the yeasts and stopping the fermentation. Not all of the sugars are fermented into alcohol, and so sweetness remains in the wine.

Styles: Moscato d'Asti is semi-sweet, very gently sparkling, and clocks in at an ABV of around 5-6%. Asti (previously Asti Spumante) is slightly drier, fully sparkling, and has an of ABV closer to 9%. The intensity of the bubbles are the major distinguishing factor between the wines. Moscato d'Asti is frizzante (min. 1 atmosphere of pressure), whereas Asti Spumante is spumante (min. 4 atmospheres of pressure).

Flavor profile: Lots of ripe citrus notes like Meyer lemon and tangerine, apple, pear, stone fruits, orange blossoms and honeysuckle.

Light desserts - Particularly fruit desserts!


That's a sampling of Italy's bubblies.We’re not going to get too far into them, but there are a few more sparkling styles to be found in the country. 

Marenco Pineto Brachetto d'Acqui and a Simple Strawberry Treat

Brachetto is used to make another bubbly wine made in the Piedmont region from the towns of Acqui and Asti. It’s pretty, pink, tastes like sweet strawberries, and you can read more about it here.

Of course, you’ll also find more rosé bubblies around the country, and I’ve been seeing more and more Pét-Nats coming from Italy as well.

I’ll leave you with these little snippets on sparkling wines in general as many terms and sweetness indicators pertain to a lot of the wines discussed here as well. (Adjusted to Italian translations, of course.)



The rest of the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel blogging group (#ItalianFWT) is exploring the sparkling wines of Italy for the holidays, hosted by Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla. Be sure to check out the rest of their posts:


Additional sources used for this post and further reading:


This post contains affiliate links, including these Amazon Associate links, from which I might receive a commission at no cost to you.



  1. Amazing post, as always, Nicole! Thanks for sharing all your knowledge about Italian bubbles. "Deep love of the fizz" indeed. I'm with you. I think I might need to track down some more bottles soon.

    1. Thanks Camilla! And agreed -- the nice things about some of these wines if that there are a lot of options with price points that lend themselves to everyday enjoyment!

  2. Another Lambrusco and Brachetto, loving that! And the link to the O'Keefe article. I heard about the controversy and she does a great job detailing the situation. Always enjoy your info packed articles Nicole, happy holidays to you and your hubby!

  3. I love this tour of sparkling wines from Italy. I love sparklers too of all kinds, but I suppose the biggest issue for me is finding the different varieties from Italy. All those food pairings look so scrumptious too! Just when you think a sparkling wine couldn't get any better, it really can with food. Great post!

    1. Thanks Deanna! And you're right about bubblies with food, yet I feel like people don't think of them as food wines often enough.

  4. What a great overview of different sparkling wine methods and styles in your article...I do like a good traditional lambrusco as well as the contratto champenoise method. :-)

  5. What a great comprehensive post! This post will be a go-to resource as I explore Italian Sparkling wines.

    Your pairings (both food and location) look amazing!


  6. Great guide to Italian bubbly. So many choices for every kind of celebration and holiday mood. I'll take a Brachetto any day!

    1. Thanks Linda! And I agree, it's delicious and not well known.

  7. Thanks for the superb primer on Italian sparkling wines. A metodo ancestral Lambrusco is def next on my list since I love pet nat wines. The antipasto pizza had me drooling!

  8. What a wonderful, complete article about Italian sparkling wines. Cheers to you and Happy New Year.


Thanks so much for leaving your comments and questions. I always love to hear from you!