Prosecco: the perfect accompaniment to love
I believe the first time I tasted prosecco was on the Paris to Milan Artesia night train. It’s called the Stendahl service and that’s a perfect name for a journey between these two cities. Stendhal was the pen name of Marie-Henri Beyle, a French writer well known for his unrequited love for Mathilde, Countess Dembowska, whom he met while living in Milan.
Stendahl’s book, On Love is the reaction to this experience. It’s an attempt to dissect romantic love in a logical, level-headed way. As a Frenchman suffering from failed Italian-style desire, he made a worthy attempt.
To make this course of action clear to my French readers, I must explain that in Italy, a country very far away from us, people are still driven to despair by love.
We left Paris Bercy station in the early evening, scheduled to arrive in Milano Centrale station the next morning. I was feeling in a champagne state, but the dining car waiter suggested in French we should try an Italian sparkling wine instead, to put our hearts and minds in the mood of our destination.
Prosecco is dry, lemony, and bubbly. It’s created from predominately Prosecco grapes in the northern Veneto region of Italy in the foothills of the Alps on the opposite side of Italy from where we were going. We missed most of the scenery through the Alps since we traveled at night, but it was April. It was quite chilly and we saw snow on the ground whenever we slowed down.
When we arrived in Milan it was pouring rain. Our hotel, the most luxurious I’ve ever stayed in, was only a few blocks away. After unsuccessfully trying to flag a taxi for more than a half-hour, we started to walk, umbrellas in one hand, one black, tourist-style, small, wheelie suitcase each in the other.
We arrived, dripping wet like two drowned rats, at the grand entrance of Hotel Principe di Savoia at 6:30 am. The bellman were not quite sure whether to laugh or cry at the sight of us. Rain puddles sloshed beneath us at the reception desk. I’m not sure if it was my hotel Platinum status or our pathetic state that forced the fastest check-in I’ve ever experienced, especially for an Italian hotel so early on a Saturday morning.
They showed us to a wondrous room. My traveling companion called it the Gianni Versace suite because of the gilt, multiple mirrors, and heavy velvet brocade of the bedding and draperies.
After a hot shower, a nap, and a late room service breakfast, we ventured out. The sun was shining. Our first stop was the “quadrilatero della moda” where the luxury brands of Italian fashion live: via Manzoni, via Montenapoleone, via della Spiga and via Sant’Andrea. A lovely lunch included more prosecco.
When I came back to the U.S. the brand of prosecco I saw most often in the liquor stores was Mionetto “IL” Prosecco D.o.c. di Treviso. It’s a black bottle with a distinctive golden swirl. I drink Prosecco almost every time I eat Italian, at least as an aperitif. Some of the better restaurants surprisingly don’t serve it, since it’s not well known.
It should be.
Although there are other very fine versions available, this Mionetto is not expensive, typically about $12.99 here in Chicago. If you’re a wine snob you might think that’s because the bottle is sealed with a generic 21-teeth crown cork bottle cap rather than a traditional foil covered cork inside the wire housing called the “cage”. The champagne ceremony of flipping up the wire ring of the cage, turning it exactly six half-turns counter-clockwise, freeing the cage from the neck of the bottle and then loudly popping a cork is lost.
But what you gain in fun bubbles is worth it.