Posts tagged ‘valdobbiadene’

Prosecco – A New Chapter (Part Two)

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.

Cartizze Vines of Villa Sandi (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

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.

April 26, 2010 at 10:36 am 2 comments

Prosecco – A New Chapter (Part One)

Pouring Prosecco at VinItaly (Photo by Tom Hyland)

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.

Prosecco Vineyards near Conegliano (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Here is a brief list of some of the top producers of Prosecco in the Conegliano Valdobbiadene area:

  • Adami
  • Bellenda
  • Bisol
  • Bortolin
  • Bortolomiol
  • Carpene Malvolti
  • Drusian
  • Le Manzane
  • Mionetto
  • Nino Franco
  • Perlage
  • Ruggeri
  • Sorelle Branca
  • Toffoli
  • Valdo
  • Villa Sandi
  • Zardetto

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.

April 22, 2010 at 12:03 pm Leave a comment

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