Afternoon tea and Prosecco #SuperioreAfternoon

If you thought Prosecco was just an aperitif wine, the evidence from a recent #SuperioreAfternoon tasting suggests that you should think again. Here, the Prosecco Superiore from Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG, whatever the style in which it’s made, turns out to be a highly versatile food wine.

Drier styles – which include Zero Dosage as well as (soon to be official) Extra Brut, Brut, and wines that have been re-fermented in bottle (often referred to as ‘Col Fondo’ wines) – tend to have both richness and savoury depth. This, in turn, lends these wines to a partnership with classic Italian flavours. They can handle the pungent grassiness of extra virgin olive oil while still having the freshness to cut through the creaminess of a fresh burrata.

Some of these drier wines, like Bortolin Angelo’s Sommaval, have notes of fresh green herbs on the palate, and they work harmoniously with ingredients like avocados and tomatoes, creating a tangy seasoning that lifts the palate.

Savoury wines that have been re-fermented in bottle have the concentration and weight to take on the intense autumnal flavours of truffled arancini. These wines make terrific partners, too, for toasted rounds of bruschetta, whether topped with vibrant summer tomatoes or creamy chicken liver paté – the subtle bready notes present in the wine echo the toasty notes of the bruschetta.

Fruitier wines, both Extra Brut and Brut, find their perfect marriage in salty prosciutto wrapped around juicy slices of melon or peach – it’s all about the interplay of fruit, sweetness and saltiness.

All of these wines, of course, are blissful partners for briny oysters, especially when dressed with a squeeze of lemon. And tiny queen scallops dressed with a dice of prosciutto, when paired with Extra Brut Prosecco, is a salty, tangy, fruity marriage made in heaven.

As you move away from the driest of Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG into Brut styles, which tend to be a little fruitier and rounder on the palate, an echo of fruitiness and sweetness in the food is often welcome. Milky stracciatella topped with lemon zest and nutty crumbs of Tarallo is a revelation when teamed with the zesty palate of wines such as l’Antica Quercia’s Prosecco Superiore DOCG Matiu Brut.

Shellfish have an intrinsic sweetness that is amplified by the gently honeyed orchard fruit of richer Brut wines, such as Colsandago’s Vigna del Cuc. Brut and Extra Dry styles lend themselves to pairings with both seafood and spice. The reverberations set up between these wines and skewers of prawns dressed with sweet chilli sauce lingered on the palate.

These wines also impressed when matched with a creamy salmon tartare, dressed with salty salmon keta and avocado. Here, richer styles, such as Frassinelli’s Extra Dry from the Rive di Manzana, won through. Its weight on the palate, and the sheer juiciness of its fruit, provided a counterpoint for each luscious mouthful.

In a similar vein, it’s worth moving beyond Italy to look for partners for these styles of wines. A lunchtime brunch at a dim sum restaurant, with its succession of delicious dumplings, often tinged with sweetness from shellfish or rich char sui pork, welcomes the versatility and brightness of high-quality Prosecco.

Reach for these wines, too, when tucking into sushi – the sweetness of the rice, the gentle heat of wasabi and the savoury notes from soy sauce all have a part to play in creating a harmonious pairing with Prosecco, alongside the various flavours and textures of the fish. Sashimi lovers, in contrast, should look for Extra Brut styles to create their own perfect match.

As you go up the sweetness scale, moving towards the sweeter end of Extra Dry and into true (if misleadingly named) Dry wines, richer, sweeter dishes come into play. These wines work well with savoury flavours – they’re terrific partners for creamy patés and salty blue cheeses as well as shellfish and dim sum – but they can take on lighter desserts on their own terms and win through. For best results stick to tangy fruit-based flavours – think tart lemon tartlets, deep-fried beignets with tiny spoonful of apple puree at their heart or bowls full of summer berries (preferably topped with a zabaglione made from a cupful of Prosecco).

So next time you open a bottle of Prosecco, think beyond a bowlful of salted nuts or green olives and explore the universe that opens up when these wines are paired with a world’s worth of flavours.