From humble beginnings to world domination: the amazing history of Prosecco

Could it be that 'Prosecco'clock' dates way back to the 1700s?

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Prosecco may be the go-to sparkling wine of the moment here in the UK – but did you know that the traditional Italian tipple's history actually stretches back thousands of years?

History buffs that we are, we thought we'd take a look back at how this distinctive hay-coloured wine has gone from humble beginnings to become one of the world's most popular sparklers...

Roman times: The Glera grape

If you know your Prosecco, you'll know that only the finest Glera grapes go into each bottle of the good stuff. And although they weren't used to produce sparkling wine at the time, Glera grapes can be traced all the way back to Roman times.

To deserve the name Prosecco, Italian sparkling wine must be made in the Conegliano Valdobbiadene region of Northeast Italy, with at least 85% green-skinned Glera grapes – which have been grown in this region for hundreds of years.

The 18th century: Prosecco's first name-drop

The first written mention of Prosecco dates back to 1754, when Aureliano Acanti name-dropped the beverage in his poetic work 'Il Roccolo Ditirambo'. But though this is the earliest historical reference to Prosecco, it's likely that the drink had already existed for several centuries beforehand.

In 1772, the academic Francesco Maria Malvolti mentioned the name Prosecco again, saying that the winemaking in the Conegliano Valdobbiadene region was of great quality "thanks to varieties like Marzemini, Bianchetti, Prosecchi, Moscatelli, Malvasie, Glossari."

Not so familiar with some of those names? Well, back then, Prosecco was just one of the wines produced in the Conegliano Valdobbiadene region – but the growers eventually began to specialise in Prosecco, which is now the one and only type of wine made in the area.

The 19th century: Prosecco picks up the pace

Almost 100 years later in 1868, a Prosecco breakthrough was made. Count Marco Giulio Balbi Valier succeeded in cultivating a new type of grape, which he named Prosecco Balbi – a type that was declared better than all the other varieties of Glera grape that had been used to make Prosecco previously. Even today, the entire Conegliano Valdobbiadene territory uses this grape solely to produce its world-famous Prosecco.

And in 1876? Italy’s first Oenology School for the study of wine was founded (and psst, the school is still in Conegliano). This was when Prosecco production really started to ramp up; the whole winemaking process was perfected as the area's hillsides filled with vineyards, the artisan growers refining their techniques to produce the fragrant, fresh sparkling wine we all know and love today.

That leads us to 1887, when winemaker Francesco Mionetto decided to open a winery in the rolling hills of Valdobbiadene. Sound familiar? Yep, he's the maestro behind one of the best Prosecco brands out there today: Mionetto Prosecco.

Mionetto Prosecco's first headquarters

Mionetto Prosecco's first headquarters

The 20th century: Prosecco starts to take over the world

At the start of the 20th century, Prosecco was still thought by many to be a second-rate version of Champagne. But all of that was about to change...

In the 1930s, stricter boundaries were imposed on the regions that were allowed to produce Prosecco – sorting the wheat from the chaff to ensure that each bottle of bubbly produced was of the highest possible quality. And at the end of WWII, the Brotherhood of Prosecco – an organisation that aimed to improve Prosecco's brand – was formed (an organisation that's still going strong today under the name Consortium for the Protection of Prosecco from Conegliano and Valdobbiadene).

But it didn't stop there. Italy's first wine road, the Strada del Prosecco, was created in 1966, laying the foundations for today's wine tourism industry. And in 1969, Prosecco finally received DOC status, standing for “Denominazione di origine controllata” (“Denomination of Controlled Origin”) – meaning that any bottle bearing its label was guaranteed to be the real deal.

Today: Prosecco is top of the pops

The latest big step for Prosecco? In 2009, Conegliano Valdobbiadene took its rightful place as a DOCG region (“Denomination of Controlled Origin Guaranteed”), meaning it's subject to even more stringent laws than ever before.

2020: ROSÉ PROSECCO joins the party

Like a lot of people, you might have assumed you could always buy Rosé Prosecco, but no. You might have seen some Italian Spumante rosé in shops, but nothing that’s officially Prosecco. The pink sparkling number only got the green light in Italy last year, and to the rest of the world in November 2020, after a lengthy series of chats with the big wigs at the Corsorzio del Prosecco DOC (a wine consortium officially recognised by the Ministry of Agriculture in Italy). The powers that be said ‘sì’ around the start of 2020, but because the process is a long one, it took a while until the rest of us could enjoy some proper pink Prosecco.

Now, it’s here to stay, and we think it’s going to be HUGE. Prosecco is still everyone’s fizz of choice. Apparently around a third of all Prosecco made is shipped to the UK. It’s true, we really can’t get enough of the delicious stuff.

...And that brings us bang up to date. Now even more accessible thanks to the powers of the Internet, Prosecco is the most popular sparkling wine in the world – and we wouldn't have it any other way.

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Comments (6)

  • fun fact: Prosecco is better than Champagne (the fact that I say it's a fact makes it a fact, right?)

      1 year ago
  • SO interesting, thanks !

      1 year ago
  • Wellllll, this has made me desperately want to go to Italy again.

      1 year ago
    • I'm going to have to buy a bottle of Mionetto and hope it's sunny this weekend... I can pretend I'm in Italy then right?!

        1 year ago