The month of July is named for the man who coined the phrase: “Veni, vidi, vici.” Two years ago, when I observed ancient aqueducts, and the breathtaking vistas of Tuscany through a train window whilst travelling through the Gallic lands that Julius Caesar once subdued under Roman authority, this phrase became something of a mantra. Perhaps it was because my travel companions were a gaggle of energetic teenage girls. Or maybe it was due to the fact that our whirlwind tour of Italy included stops in Milan, Florence, Rome, down to Pompeii, on to Sorrento, with a day trip to Capri, all in less than a week! Regardless, I certainly felt like “I came, I saw, I conquered!”
July in Italy is many enchanting things, but above all it is HOT! As we trekked upwards of ten miles a day, packing in as much sightseeing as we possibly could, this Alaskan gal was melting in the humid, 90+ degree climate. Now, I love a good spaghetti red Italian table wine as much as the next signorina! However, I could not bring myself to drink (much) of it as we toured the lands of Cicero and the Caesars. I needed to find a revitalizing substitute that was low enough in alcohol content that I could maintain the veneer of responsibility that a chaperone on a Girl Scout trip needed to maintain. The solution came to me after a particularly sweltering day of traipsing up and down the seven hills of the Eternal City. In a scene that could have been cut directly from a Fellini film, I found myself at a quaint outdoor cafe nestled in the shadow of the Colosseum. As I settled in with a drink menu I could not read, I noticed an impeccably dressed local near me sipping a beverage that was the color of the setting Tuscan sun. When I clumsily, and in true Americano fashion indicated to my server that I just had to try the elixir I saw at the next table over, he graciously introduced me to the Spritz. It was amore at first sip! Bellissimo!
There are a number of ways to make this refreshing, Prosecco based cocktail. The concoction that I quaffed nightly as we continued down the Amalfi Coast was three parts Prosecco, two parts Aperol, with a splash of soda water, and garnished with either a slice of orange, or a strawberry. If you want to crank up the tartness, Campari can replace the Aperol. Or, if you prefer lemon zing to bitter orange, try substituting the Sorrento based liqueur, Lemoncello. Whichever you choose, these Italian Spritzes are a sure-fire way to tap into la Dolce Vita!
Like it’s French counterpart (Champagne), the name Prosecco is strictly a geographical indicator, named for a charming village in Northern Italy. The primary grape used in the production of this sparkling white wine is Glera. Prosecco tends to be cheaper than Champagne, due to the fact that the Charmont-Martinotti method is used in its secondary fermentation process. The use of stainless steel tanks cuts the cost of the production process significantly. Prosecco is not intended to age or ferment within the bottle, and should be enjoyed within three years of its vintage.
Prosecco is light and crisp, with notes of stone fruits like pear, apricot, and yellow apples. Always served chilled, Prosecco can be intensely aromatic, and quite delicious on its own. It is also lower in alcohol content than other sparkling wines, averaging only 11%-12% alcohol volume per bottle. This makes it a perfect base for a fun, spritzy cocktail.
The Italians have another phrase that I have grown to love; “Anni, amori e bicchieri di vino… nun se contano mai.” It means; “Years, lovers, and glasses of wine… these things must not be counted.” Allow yourself to be seduced by one of these Italian Spritzes today!