The sparkling Italian wine Prosecco is often revered as much for its affordable price as for its food-friendly flavor. That may soon change. Beginning this fall with the 2009 vintage, Prosecco from a select region will obtain “Garantita” status. For the weekend wine buyer, it simply means a G will be added after the DOC on the label — and the price of many bottles will likely increase.

For wine makers, the new labeling brings more stringent production requirements. DOCG status will be given to only those 160 producers (about 3,000 growers) within the Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene zone, an area surrounding the cities of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene where the sloping vineyards are terraced and lower yield (typically producing higher quality grapes). The area is also the historical center of Prosecco production.

Those wineries in the nine provinces outside this zone that are currently labeled with the lesser “Geografica Tipica” IGT designation will now be “upgraded” to DOC. Wineries outside this new DOC zone will no longer be able to call their wine Prosecco. These wineries will be required to use the name Glera, a historic version of the Prosecco grape, on their labels (Glera will become the new name of the Prosecco grape, while the term Prosecco will now exclusively represent a designated region). Proponents of the new labeling say it will ferret out lesser quality Proseccos, but Los Angeles area wine shops and restaurateurs have mixed feelings on the new labeling.

Josh Loeb, owner of Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica, is nonplussed despite that all of his restaurant's fresh fruit and wine based aperitifs are called “Prosecco cocktails” (technically some of the bubbly used is not Prosecco, nor do the drinks contain hard alcohol). If the price increases, Loeb says he will simply switch sparklers as he already does on occasion.

“Not every sparkling wine works well when mixed into a cocktail,” says Loeb. “We've been through a few Proseccos that didn't work, either flavor profile or bubbly issues, and even with that, we use a Cava in a couple of our drinks because the bubbles work better.”

Roberto Rogness, general manager and buyer for Wine Expo, a Santa Monica importer and retailer of Italian wine, is somewhat more outspoken on the matter.

“I think the label change is the worst thing ever,” says Rogness. “Yes, price will likely go up… but the real issue is now everything we've taught people to look for in a Prosecco is wrong. I've been telling customers for 10 years to look for that DOC on the label to indicate it's a real Prosecco from Valdobbiadene and Conegliano. With the new labels, people are going to think they're getting DOC, but it's going to be the old IGT crap. Do we really need more confusion?”

Perhaps the appropriate thing to do to clarify the situation is to stock up on 2008 DOC Prosecco and start tossing back the Melonades.

Rustic Canyon's Melonade

Makes 1 cocktail

Note: To make simple syrup, combine equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar melts. Chill before using.

4 1-inch cubes Weiser Farm's Honeydew melon

1 ounce Meyer lemon juice

1/2 ounce simple syrup

6 ounces of Prosecco

one Meyer lemon

1. Muddle the melon in an old-fashioned cocktail glass.

2. Add the Meyer lemon juice and simple syrup and stir. Top with the Prosecco then add ice until the glass is full.

3. Zest 1/4 of the Meyer lemon into the drink and onto the rim of the glass.

LA Weekly