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It is thought to have been referred to by the Romans of the area, as far back as 200 BC, as Puccino. The first documented mention of Prosecco comes in a poem written in 1754 by Aureliano Acanti. Just as France has a Champagne region, North Eastern Italy has a designated Prosecco region

In Trieste at the beginning of the sixteenth century, the local wine "Ribolla" was promoted as the recreation of the Pucinian celebrated by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History and praised for its medicinal qualities by Livia, the wife of Emperor Augustus. The need to distinguish the "Ribolla" of Trieste from other wines of the same name, produced in Gorizia and at lower cost in Istria, led, at the end of the century, to a change in name. Following the supposed place of production in antiquity, the wine was referred to as "castellum nobile vinum Pucinum", after the castle near the village of Prosecco.

The first known mention of the name Prosecco is attributed to the Englishman Fynes Moryson, who used the spelling Prosecho. Moryson, visiting the north of Italy in 1593, notes: "Histria is devided into Forum Julii, and Histria properly so called ... Here growes the wine Pucinum, now called Prosecho, much celebrated by Pliny". He places Prosecco among the famous wines of Italy: "These are the most famous Wines of Italy. La lagrima di Christo and like wines neere Cinqueterre in Liguria: La vernazza, and the white Muskadine, especially that of Montefiaschoni in Tuscany: Cecubum and Falernum in the Kingdom of Naples, and Prosecho in Histria". The method of vinification, the true distinguishing feature of the original Prosecco, spread first in Gorizia, then – through Venice – in Dalmatia, Vicenza and Treviso.

In 1754, the spelling Prosecco appears for the first time in the book Il Roccolo Ditirambo, written by Aureliano Acanti in Novoledo, in the municipality of Villaverla located in the Province of Vicenza. The wine was then known by the local Slovene-speaking population as Prosegker or Prosekar and was grown on the Adriatic coast near the villages of Contovello, Prosecco, Santa Croce and the former Roman villa town Barcola.

The verses are: "Ed or ora immollarmi voglio il becco Con quel melaromatico prosecco. Di Monteberico questo perfetto prosecco eletto ci da' lo splendido nostro Canonico (in Italian)", "And now I would like to wet my mouth with that Prosecco with its apple bouquet. From Monteberico this perfect favorite prosecco Our Priest give us. (a) ...(a) Mr Priest Jacopo Ghellini brother of Mr Pietro and Mr Marco. Those cavaliers from their estate on the Mount Berico (Monte Berico) collect the Prosecco, that has the most rare qualities, that a wine could have from any other place." Monte Berico is the hill of the city of Vicenza.

Up until the 1960s, Prosecco sparkling wine was generally rather sweet and barely distinguishable from the Asti wine produced in Piedmont. Since then, production techniques have improved, leading to the higher quality wines produced today. According to a 2008 New York Times report, Prosecco rose sharply in popularity in markets outside Italy, with global sales growing by double-digit percentages since 1998, aided also by its comparatively low price. It was introduced into the mainstream US market in 2000 by Mionetto, now the largest importer of Prosecco, who also reported an "incredible growth trend" in 2008. Consumption also ballooned in the UK, which became, in the mid-2010s, the biggest export market for Prosecco, consuming fully one quarter of all Italian production.

Until the 2008 vintage Prosecco was protected as a DOC within Italy, as Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene, Prosecco di Conegliano, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, and Prosecco di Colli Asolani. From 2009, these two area were promoted to DOCG status. To further protect the name, an association of traditional Prosecco growers advocated a protected designation of origin status for Northern Italian Prosecco under European law. Hence, since 1 January 2010, Prosecco is, according to an order of the Italian Minister of Agriculture of 17 July 2009, no longer the name of a grape variety (now to be called Glera), but exclusively a geographical indication. This was confirmed by EG-Regulation Nr. 1166/2009 of 30 November 2009. The Colli Asolani Prosecco Superiore DOCG later changed its name to Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG in 2014.

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