Today’s lesson in Italian wines is about a territory where Prosecco is produced. Nothing new about that, right? Well, maybe so. And the story doesn’t end there, as there are also some beautifully structured red wines produced in this land as well.
The territory I speak of is Montello e Colli Asolani – often known simply as Colle Asolani – located in the province of Treviso in the Veneto region. This zone was awarded the DOC desigation in 1977, and then DOCG in 2009. It was this latter promotion that put this area on the map, so to speak, as the DOCG was awarded for the area’s Prosecco.
A few words about this. Prosecco has been a wildly popular sparkling wine for more than a decade. The problem was that Prosecco could be produced outside of its spiritual home, the province of Treviso; indeed it was (and still is) made in the region of Friuli, and believe it or not, can even be produced today in Brazil!
The Italians had to solve this problem, so the answer was to give the Prosecco zones in Treviso a DOCG status, while other examples of Prosecco – such as those made in Friuli, would maintain their DOC level. This meant that Prosecco from the Conegliano Valdobbiadene zone – the most famous – would be DOCG, which of course, would elevate it quality-wise in the eyes of consumers.
But there was a second DOCG Prosecco zone that emerged from the legislation of 2009; that being DOCG Asolo Prosecco. Named for the town of Asolo (pronounced aah-so-low), a bit west of Conegliano, Asolo Prosecco is today, the “other” DOCG Prosecco, and one that should be better known. No doubt the fact of its small size as compared to Conegliano Valdobbiadene (500 acres planted versus 16,000) means the Asolo Prosecco will probably never be as popular as those from Conegliano Valdobbiadene, but there are numerous first-rate wines made in Colle Asolani.
The finest I have tried to date is the Cirotto Prosecco Superiore Extra Brut. The primary grape of course, is Glera, once known as Prosecco, but changed to Glera – an historical synonym – to emphasize that Prosecco is a regulated wine, and not a grape type. This wine is 90% Glera, with the remaining 10% being Bianchetta, an indigenous variety in Treviso. Quite dry, with that elegant, soft feel of a classic Prosecco, this offers appealing aromas of lemon zest and ginger, is medium-full on the palate, and displays lovely complexity. Very highly recommended! (Incidentally, the term Extra Brut can currently only be used for Asolo Prosecco DOCG, and not for any other examples of Prosecco.)
Most examples are Extra Dry in the tradition of Prosecco (extra dry here meaning a bit more residual sugar than Extra Brut, so Extra Dry is sweeter than Extra Brut), and I have recently tasted some very impressive examples, especially from Tenuta Ama Dio and Montelvini. The former is nicely balanced, with attractive candied lemon fruit flavors and perfumes, while the second has a bit more richness on the palate, while offering classic white peach, golden apple and dried yellow flower aromas. Both of these wines are well made and would please any Prosecco drinker, newcomer or seasoned veteran.
My favorite examples of Asolo Prosecco – and easily the most unique – are Col Fondo. Col Fondo can literally be translated as “on the floor” or “on the bottom,” but a better and more useful translation here is “with sediment.” Col Fondo Prosecco is an ancient tradition, when wines here made here before modern equipment and technology came along, so a Col Fondo Prosecco is one in which the sediment remains in the bottle (on the bottom), as the wine was not disgorged.
The two examples that have really impressed me are the Bele Casel and the Case Paolin. The former is very reminiscent of a natural wine, given its muted fruit flavors and cloudy appearance, while the Case Paolin offers richer fruit – lemon peel and orange zest notes – along with excellent persistence and beautiful complexity. Both of these wines are quite far removed from a typical Asolo Prosecco, and are must to taste if you want to experience the variety and distinctiveness of this area’s wines. (The Case Paolin, incidentally is a Certified Biological Wine.)
Finally, there is also red wine from this area; designated as Montello e Colli Asolani DOC, red wines are a long-time tradition in this zone. The grape used here is Recantina, a variety most people (myself included) are probably not familiar with. Harvested in October, the grape has deep color (ruby red/purple), medium-weight tannins and good acidity. The two examples I tasted were the 2014 Pat del Colmel and the 2013 Giusti “Augusto” Recantina. Both wines have excellent ripeness with a Rhone-like character, as there is ample black spice along with subtle herbal, earthy notes in the finish. The Giusti was particularly impressive – thanks no doubt to the first-rate 2013 vintage – and has greater persistence and overall better harmony than the Pat de Colmel, but both wines are notable examples of this unique red variety, and promise anywhere from 5 to 7 years of drinkability. Special wines indeed, I’d pair them with beef stew, casserole or many types of game, especially cinghiale or vension.
Whether you prefer a typical Prosecco, or the special qualities of a Col Fondo Prosecco, or you are searching for a distinctive red, the Montello e Colli Asolani zone has what you are looking for.