Posts tagged ‘prosecco’
On Monday and Tuesday of this week, Chicago was host to the Wines of Veneto for several events, including a sit-down seminar featuring 10 Venetian wines, a dinner at Phil Stefani’s 437 Rush and two Prosecco tastings, one at a Treasure Island retail outlet and one at a steakhouse (Benny’s Chop House), just north of downtown. These events were part of a tour about the wines of Veneto that were also organized for Los Angeles and New York.
I was pleased to be invited to be part of the seminar on Monday morning; joining me were Nathan Woodhouse, from Ionia Atlantic Imports, a company that represents numerous artisan producers from Italy and Benny Woodhouse, owner of Benny’s Chop House. Moderating the seminar was Aurora Endrici, a sommelier from Italy. Aurora is an extremely knowledgable individual and an engaging speaker. Everyone at the events loved her outgoing personality and warmth; I greatly enjoyed working with her and hope to have the opportunity again in the not too distant future.
The seminar was a natural for me, as I had recently visited producers in both the Soave and Valpolicella districts in late May and early June, so I was understandably excited about the wines (please see my recent posts on Soave and Amarone). Wines from those areas are quite well known in America and were included, as well as Prosecco, the famous sparkling wine from the province of Treviso. But it was the inclusion of other wines – offerings not that well known in many markets outside Veneto – that were real eye-openers for myself and the attendees.
The most exciting wines for me were two reds: Tai Rosso and Bagnoli Friularo. Tai Rosso is produced from the Tocai Rosso grape, the name of which had to be changed according to EU regulations that now protect the name “Tokay”, which refers to a wine from Hungary (the same refers to the Friulano grape, a white that was previously known as Tocai Friulano. It is grown primarily in Friuli and the Veneto; in the Veneto, the white grape is known as Tai and the red as Tai Rosso).
We sampled a 2010 bottling of Tai Rosso from the Colli Berici DOC area in the province of Vicenza. This variety is thought to be an offshoot of Garnacha from Spain or Cannonau from Sardegna. The grape has very light amounts of anthocyanins, resulting in a red wine that looks more like a rosato than a rosso. The wine was lovely with wonderful fresh cherry and currant fruit as well as tart acidity and light tannins. In some ways, it resembled a Bardolino in its delicacy and freshness, but the Tai Rosso not only has a lighter color, but also more spice. It could be enjoyed at cellar temperature, although I’d love it this time of year slightly chilled- foods such as salumi, lighter pastas or soups would be wonderful pairings.
The Friularo from the Bagnoli DOC in the province of Padova was a completely different style of red, one with much deeper color (deep ruby red), richer tannins and with a structure meant for 10-12 years of aging (this was a 2005 bottling, so wines from bigger vintages, such as 2004 or 2007, would be capable of longer aging). The grape is known as Raboso in other parts of Veneto, but in this DOC, it is labeled as Friularo. This was a marvelous wine, one with flavors of plum and cacao and one that had a beautifully defined mid-palate and layers of flavor. 100% of the grapes were dried for four months before fermentation (a la Amarone), giving the wine a gorgeous texture in the mouth and excellent persistence. This was a wonderful find for everyone at the tasting.
Other wines presented at the seminar included a Raboso from the Piave DOC in the province of Treviso, the marvelous dessert wine Torcolato di Breganze, produced from the Vespaiolo grape and a lovely sparkling wine known as Fior d’Arancio Spumante from the Colli Euganei. This is made entirely from the Moscato Giallo grape, as with the more famous Moscato d’Asti wine of Piemonte and like that wine, the alcohol is quite low (5.5%). It has gorgeous apricot and honey aromas and a sensual delicacy and light sweetness that are irresistible. Endrici mentioned that this is a difficult sell, given the worldwide success of Moscato d’Asti and that even in the local area, producers have a difficult time finding customers for this wine. How nice then for the Veneto group to come here and present this wine!
I commented that the wines of Veneto are a microcosm for the entire Italian wine industry, as this is a region known for many types of wines, from sparkling (Prosecco and Fior d’Arancia Spumante) to whites (Soave, Lugana) to lighter reds (Bardolino, Tai Rosso) to more full-bodied reds (Bagnoli Friularo, Amarone) to dessert wines, both white (Torcolato, Recioto di Soave) and red (Recioto di Valpolicella). Every color of the viticultural rainbow can be found in Italy and you really don’t need to go any farther than Veneto to enjoy this wide range of offerings.
This was a wonderful opportunity for everyone involved to understand the broad spectrum of Venetian wines and I am delighted to have had the occasion to be introduced to several wines I rarely have the chance to taste during my travels. Learning about the wines of Veneto is just one more reason why Italian wines are so extraordinary, given their distinctiveness and of course, their amazing quality.
A personal note of thanks to several individuals for making these events happen and for their assistance with my role this week. Thank you to Aurora Endrici, Paolo Doglioni and Fabio Coronin from Centro Estero Veneto, Augusto Marchini and Fred Marripodi of the Italian Trade Commission in New York City and finally, Patrick Capriati of the Italian Trade Commission in Chicago.
Cartizze Vineyards (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
In my previous post on Prosecco, I covered the basics of this wine. I would now like to write about some of the special wines emerging from the Conegliano Valdobbiadene district, which has recently been awarded DOCG status.
For years now, many of the top estates in this area have been producing a wine from the Cartizze hill, located just outside the town of Valdobbiadene. This hill, encompassing 107 hectares (264 acres), is recognized as arguably the finest vineyard area for the production of Prosecco – in other words, this is the Grand Cru of Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene. Wines made from here generally offer more complex aromatics (such as chamomile and elder flowers), are richer on the palate and unlike the basic bottlings of Prosecco, can age for 2-3 years. Curiously, most bottlings carry the Dry designation (which is actually medium sweet), although there are a few examples of Cartizze Brut. Among the best examples of Cartizze are the bottlings from Adami, Bisol, Bortolomiol, Mionetto and Villa Sandi. Prices are generally in the $25-$35 range on American retail shelves.
There are other single vineyard wines; one of my favorites is the “Particella 68″ produced by Sorelle Branca. The number 68 refers to the number of the parcel of this vineyard on the local map. This site is dominated by granitic soils, which adds minerality and limits yields. This wine offers more beautiful aromas of Bosc pear and musk oil and is very dry and refreshing with precise acidity.
One of the new terms that will be used for Prosecco is the word rive (singular riva), which refers to a single vineyard, commune or village of origin that has been singled out for its quality. Bottlings of rive must be of the full sparking (spumante) version and must be vintage-dated.
Organic viticulture is becoming an important movement for growers in this area and is clearly a reason for the high quality of some of the best bottlings of Prosecco. The Treviso Brut from Mionetto is made from organically farmed vineyards (labeled as biologica agricoltura on Italian labels); this means that no synthetic chemicals or fertilizers were used in the vineyard. Mionetto has also taken an extra step in presenting a natural product, as recycled materials were used for the label and the shipper carton. As for the wine itself, the aromas feature notes of green apples and papaya; there is good weight on the palate and a lengthy, elegant feel on the finish with lively acidity. This is a first-rate Prosecco!
Perlage Winery is a leader in natural winemaking; it was certified organic in 1985. One of their bottlings, Animae, is made with no added sulfites, which is believed to be not only the lone Prosecco of this type, but perhaps the only sparkling wine in the world made in this manner. Clearly, the grapes used for the production of this wine must be of extremely high quality and the work in the cellar must be precise. The must stays in contact with a specially cultivated yeast from October to February before the secondary fermentation. The wine, a Brut, offers intriguing aromas of caramel, brown sugar and herbal tea, a departure from the normal white peach fruitiness of most examples of Prosecco. The finish is quite dry and the wine has admirable structure; this is clearly a showcase example of what Prosecco can be.
So the new DOCG classification for Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene comes at a time when more and more producers in this area are looking to expand the definition of Prosecco from a simple sparkler to a wine of complexity, elegance and finesse – characteristics of great wines from around the world.
Ask any wine lover about Prosecco and you’ll probably get some pretty similar responses. It’s a fun wine, it’s bubbly and it’s inexpensive. All of those are true and those factors have helped make Prosecco a substantial success in the United States.
But ask those same wine drinkers if they think that Prosecco is an excellent or a serious wine and chances are you’ll get some strange looks. Very few people really think much about Prosecco – they just drink it! That’s not a bad thing to be certain, but it’s difficult to get consumers to consider the wine’s quality.
I have to admit that while I have enjoyed some special bottlings of Prosecco over the past few years, I don’t think much about the wine and if I want a sparkling wine for dinner, it’s usually Franciacorta from Italy or Champagne. So a recent trip I took to the Conegliano Valdiobbiadene area courtesy of the Prosecco Consorzio of was a bit of an eye-opening experience.
Let me start by defining Prosecco; where it’s grown, the grapes used, etc. The name Prosecco is now used in a few zones in Italy as the wine has become a major phenomenon. Prosecco can be made in Friuli, but the original area and the heart of the true Prosecco is located in the province of Treviso in northern Veneto in an area between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. It is in hillside vineyards in this territory where the finest bottlings of Prosecco emerge and to honor these offerings, the coveted DOCG status has recently been awarded to the wines of this zone. The wines are now known as Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore; in this case, the word Superiore does not denote longer aging, but rather it signifies the highest quality. (The neighboring zone of Colli Asolani has also been classified as DOCG for Prosecco). The first DOCG wines from the 2009 vintage went on sale in the market on April 1, 2010.
Prosecco is a sparkling wine that has two types: frizzante, or lightly sparkling (recognizable by the string – spago – closure) and spumante or fully sparkling. The grape used is also called Prosecco and the minimum requirement is 85%; other varieties such as Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay can be used up to 15%, but in reality, most bottlings of Prosecco are made from 100% Prosecco grape. One note about the grape: in the area of Conegliano Valdobbiadene, the grape is known as Glera, but that is the only place where it is permissible for that name to be used. In other areas where Prosecco DOC (not DOCG) will still be produced (a total of eight other provinces in northern Italy), the grape must be identified as Prosecco.
The wine itself is made by a method called Charmat where the secondary fermentation takes place in a tank instead of the bottle itself, which is how Champagne and other famous sparkling wines are produced. The Charmat method is ideal with Prosecco, as it emphasizes the delicate fruitiness of the Prosecco grape; these are wines to be enjoyed in their youth. Note also that Prosecco is bottled under less pressure than Champagne, which means is is a bit softer on the palate, which helps explain its popularity.
Most producers make different bottlings based on residual sugar level; the driest is Brut, the next level (slightly sweet) is Extra Dry – this is the most typical and usually the best-selling wine a producer makes – and then Dry, which in this case means medium-sweet! For the record, the numbers are as follows: Brut is a category with 0-13 grams of residual sugar, Extra Dry is 12-20, while Dry is 17-35.
Here is a brief list of some of the top producers of Prosecco in the Conegliano Valdobbiadene area:
- Carpene Malvolti
- Le Manzane
- Nino Franco
- Sorelle Branca
- Villa Sandi
These producers not only make the traditional Extra Dry and Brut versions of Prosecco, but also special bottlings that are richer on the palate and more aromatic and with much greater complexity than the regular offerings. Some of these are from single vineyards known as rive, while there are also some spectacular bottlings from the Cartizze hill. Several of these producers (such as Mionetto and Perlage, just to name two) are making wines from biodynamically farmed vineyards. In my next post, I will share my thoughts on some of these products.
White variety from Abruzzo and Marche. Generally aged in stainless steel, though some vinters barrel age it, achieving a creaminess. Pear and apple aromas.
Lovely red variety of Campania, literally meaning “red feet,” a descriptor for the birds that sit on the vines when they eat the ripe berries. High acid, light tannins and charming fruit flavors of raspberry, cranberry and black cherry. Primarily used as a blending varietal; in small percentages (less than 15%), it cuts the aggressive tannic bite of Aglianico in the great Campanian red, Taurasi. It is also the primary variety in the medium-bodied Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Rosso.
One of Liguria’s most important white varieties with flavors of pineapple and pear with notes of herbs (often rosemary).
Red variety of Friuli with big tannins and deep color and flavors of black fruits. Used only by a few producers and often in blends.
The most widely planted white variety in Alto Adige, this has flavors of apples with a touch of spice. Examples vary from light, crisp and refreshing to more serious bottlings with deep fruit concentration and distinct minerality (such as the top examples from producers such as Cantina Terlano, Cantina Tramin and Alois Lageder.)
Wildy popular white variety grown in several regions of Italy, with the finest bottlings coming from the cool northern regions of Alto Adige and Friuli. Flavors of apple, pear and dried flowers with most examples being quite light and simple. A few producers make single vineyard or special selection bottlings that are more complex. (Known as Pinot Gris in France and other countries.)
Known almost everwhere else in the world as Pinot Noir, this is a red variety with moderate tanins, cherry/strawberry fruit and high acidity. A few examples from Piemonte and Tuscany, but the best in Italy are from Alto Adige.
Red variety of Puglia, with deep color, black fruits and plenty of spice. Generally found in southern Pugila and often bottled on its own. DNA related to Zinfandel of California.
White variety from Veneto and Friuli used in the production of the sparkling wine of the same name. Flavors of white peach and lemon, aged in steel tanks.
The name for Sangiovese in the town of Montepulciano (used in the wine Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.)
The complete name of this variety is Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso – or “Refosco with a red stalk.” Yields wines of big spice, red fruit and distinctive tannins.
Charming white variety of Friuli that produces light to medium-bodied wines with high acidity and flavors of pear, lemon, chamomile and dried flowers.
One of the major red varieties of the Valpolicella district with deep color and good fruit (red cherry) intensity and moderate tannins.
Rarely seen red variety grown near Asti in Piemonte that makes a lightly spicy, high acid red.
Red variety of Umbria, grown only in the Montefalco area. Known for its intense tannins, Sagrantino is even more tannic than Nebbiolo. Cherry fruit and distinct spiciness as well. Sagrantino is made in both a dry and sweet (passito) version.
One of Italy’s most famous and widely planted red varieties, this is best known for its use in three famous Tuscan reds: Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino. High acid, garnet color and fresh red cherry fruit along with notes of cedar; today some modernists have tweaked Sangiovese to deepen the color and add spice and vanilla from small oak barrels. Sangiovese is also planted in Umbria, Marche and Emilia Romagna.
Known as Sauvignon Blanc throughout the rest of the world, this white variety is found most famously in Friuli and Alto Adige, where it produces assertive wines with bracing acidity and flavors of asparagus, pea and freshly mown hay. Also grown along the coasts of Tuscany.
Red variety from Friuli that produces lighter reds with cherry, currant fruit, high acidity and light tannins. Also known as Vernatsch.
Red variety of Friuli with big tannins and spice. Only a few producers work with this grape.
Red variety of Campania with lively acidity, dark berry fruit and moderate tannins. Usually a blending variety, but also used to make a lightly sparkling red wine.
Red variety of Puglia with deep purple color and big tannins. Usually part of a blend, but sometimes bottled on its own. Interestingly, the name of the grape is loosely transalted as “the back of a donkey,” perhaps because of its productivity in the vineyard.