Over the course of history, we can point to a handful of wines that have changed the way people of all walks of life and in all parts of the world have enjoyed wine.
Just think of the 18th-century Lord Hamilton and his discovery of wines from Marsala, Sicily. Britain was never the same!
Similarly, when the wines of Bordeaux became the favorites of London bankers in the 19th century, Claret made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot became a symbol of good taste and prosperity.
In more recent times, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon prompted winemakers around the world to try to reproduce the bold, fruity, and oaky style that has proved to be such a favorite among wine critics. Super Tuscans owe no small credit to their counterparts from California for their international success.
Today, it’s hard to imagine life in the U.S. without Prosecco. But those of us old enough to remember the 1980s will be reminded of a time when Americans’ sparkling wine options were pretty darn limited. And what’s even harder to believe today is that people generally didn’t know one type of sparkling wine from another. Back then, nearly all sparkling wines available to consumers was from Italy or France. But few could even tell the difference or express an informed preference for one or another.
But when Prosecco began to land on North American shores in the late 1980s, it only took a few short years before Prosecco was — quite literally — on everyone’s lips.
The biggest shift that Prosecco brought with it was that fine sparkling wine doesn’t have to be expensive. The overarching high quality of Prosecco (it’s hard to find a bad one!) built a ton of confidence among consumers who might otherwise have been intimidated by sparkling wine.
But perhaps more importantly, in America Prosecco was the first sparkling wine that was great to pair with food. Before the advent of Prosecco in the U.S., sparkling wine was only served for special occasion and it was only paired with a handful of foods.
Lastly, Prosecco was the first Italian wine that U.S. wine lovers paired with American and international cuisines. It’s hard to believe but back before the 1980s, you only found Italian wines at Italian restaurants. And they were served almost exclusively with Italian food. Because of its great versatility at the dinner table, people were keen to pair with Asian cuisine, Mexican cuisine, and even classic American cooking.