Sometimes Prosecco doesn’t have bubbles. It’s still Prosecco, it’s just still Prosecco. It’s typically called tranquillo and you’d be right to ask, ‘what’s the point of prosecco without fizz?’
Zero-bar tranquillo, first and foremost, is cool because it’s a way to focus on the character of the Glera grape as it was enjoyed for centuries before sparkling wine hit the scene. You pick up on the high acidity and apple flavor that you’ve always known was there, but with a different feeling for how light-bodied, stony and clean it is.
Some Gleras, admittedly, taste more like apple juice than others, and all are intense on the fruit flavors. The nicer once are balanced and aromatic with lemon and pear on top of the apple flavors. The very best come from Valdobbiadene in the Veneto. Unlike Frizzante and Spumante that can contain 20% Chardonnay, tranquillo is all Glera. Like Riesling, Glera makes a good aperitif wine and goes well with smokey things.
Second, tasting tranquillo is a nice ground zero to get over the enduring platitude that Prosecco is cheap champagne. If Italians wanted to make champagne-style sparkling wine they would designate a geographical area to grow Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier and the wine would be called Trento DOC and it would taste great (and still be cheaper and different from champagne). Taste a glass of good Glera next to a glass of good chardonnay and you’re well on your way to starting to enjoy Prosecco as Prosecco.
Finally, because tranquillo is not often found outside of Italy, it’s good news because you’ve either found something rare or you should feel lucky that you’re in Italy… or Slovenia. Glera’s origins are controversial, but generally accepted as Slovenian and to make matters worse there are varieties of Glera shared between Italy, Slovenia and Croatia and some unique to Slovenia. With so many native grapes in its marvelous collection already, I think Italy is poised to play it tranquillo on this one and let neighboring Slovenia enjoy the claim. Think back to the little town of Prosecco that sits on the border of Italy and Slovenia and ancient tradition of Glera growth in Slovenia, Friuli-Venezia Giulia and the Veneto and you’ll question why the debate should have anything at all to do with modern states. Economics, the DOC and IGT systems and a pinch of nationalism, of course, explain the controversy, so more on those topics soon.