What makes Prosecco so special?
Italy is now the largest producer of sparkling wine in the world – over 700 million bottles of Prosecco are produced annually. Above all, the grapes for the particularly high-quality Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG are grown in a charming landscape with some spectacular steep slopes.
Paolo Bisol points to some old, gnarled vines that stand on a steep slope on the Cartizze hill. "These are our Methusalems, these vines are over 80 years old. If we take good care of them, they have many more years ahead of them." The grapes from these old vines form the basis for Ruggeri's Prosecco Superiore DOCG Vecchie Viti. Paolo Bisol knows the steep slopes around the small town of Valdobbiadene like the back of his hand. For many years he managed the Ruggeri winery which, in 2017, became part of the Rotkäppchen-Mumm group. The Cartizze slope is a special site in the municipality of Valdobbiadene.
The steep slope covers only 107 hectares, and all the wineries want a share of it so that they can also carry ‘a Cartizze’ in their range. This has driven up the price of land in Cartizze considerably –it works out at over one million euros per hectare. If even a small area becomes available, numerous interested parties immediately come forward, all willing to put such high sums on the table. Traditionally, Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze was always produced as a dry wine but with some residual sweetness. In recent years, however, the drier Brut version has been gaining more and more popularity, a style in which the finesse of the Cartizze is arguably shown to better advantage.
Prosecco has conquered the whole world in recent years and made Veneto the leading sparkling wine region in Italy. However, it’s important to make a distinction between the categories Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG and Prosecco DOC. Just under 100 million bottles of Prosecco Superiore DOCG are produced. The remainder – over 600 million bottles – are Prosecco DOC. The classic wine-growing area for this is in the province of Treviso. Between the towns of Valdobbiadene in the west and Conegliano in the east, there are a total of 15 municipalities. Protected by the Dolomites in the north and influenced by mild Adriatic air from the south, a microclimate is created in which the vines flourish in favourable conditions. In the sunny areas, the vineyards range in altitude from 50 to 500 metres. The steepness of the vineyards is considerable, sometimes on a slope of over 45 percent. Mechanical cultivation is out of the question here: the vineyards are tended exclusively by hand.
The basis for Prosecco is the Glera grape, which must account for at least 85 % of the final wine. The rest is usually made up of other local varieties. The Glera grape is characterised by its delicate aroma. In order to preserve this, Prosecco is produced using a tank fermentation process. After three to four months of storage, the wine is ready to be released.
Focus CartizzeBack to Valdobbiadene. There is an excellent Brut Cartizze from Villa Sandi: the Rivetta. The Moretti Polegato family, owners of Villa Sandi, are among the big players in the Prosecco business. As an aside, Mario Moretti Polegato worked as an oenologist in the family business before he started his own business in the 1990s and has since been producing shoes and clothing with great success under the brand name Geox. With the La Gioiosa brand, the family is also massively represented in Prosecco DOC, and its products are known all over the world. The top products of the house appear under the Villa Sandi brand. The name is not just the brainchild of resourceful marketing strategists, Villa Sandi really exists. A visit to the high halls of the classic Palladian villa is just as impressive as a walk through the underground corridors where thousands of bottles of sparkling wine and Prosecco are stored. Villa Sandi is also one of the important producers of Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG, which is produced on the slopes around the picturesque town of Asolo. The Nero Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG is not only good to drink but is also beautifully presented.
Col Vetoraz also relies heavily on Cartizze. Anything else would be surprising, as the winery is located at one of the highest points of the wine route that leads from Valdobbiadene via Sacol to Guia, right above the Cartizze site. Francesco Miotto, Paolo de Bortoli and Loris Dall'Acqua founded the winery in the mid-1990s and have since made a name for themselves with their high-quality sparklers. The view from their tasting room is fabulous: just below are the vines of Cartizze, steep slopes also characterise the hills all around, and the light shimmers down in the wide plain below. Prosecco tastes even better here, but there’s a lot to choose from. Should we start with the bone-dry Valdobbiadene Extra Brut 0 or with the somewhat smoother Valdobbiadene Extra Brut 5, whose five grams of residual sugar make it a little softer? In any case, finish with a fragrant Superiore di Cartizze!
Viva Valdobbiadene!The small town of Valdobbiadene marks the western end of the wine-growing area. Most of the steep slopes are located in the municipality of Valdobbiadene, and many of the leading wineries are based in the town itself. Nino Franco is one of them. The company is run by Primo Franco and his daughter Silvia Franco. Primo Franco took over the business from his father in the 1970s and consistently focused on quality. In 1983, he produced the first Prosecco Millesimato, i.e. with vintage indication. Many visitors are surprised when they are asked which old vintage they would like to taste. A vertical of Prosecco? If you think it's a joke, Nino Franco is happy to prove you wrong. The vintages go back to the 1980s. Besides the Grave di Stecca, which is not a Prosecco Superiore and is always released a few years after the harvest, the Rive di San Floriano is Nino Franco's flagship.
Giuliano Bortolomiol had a dream: to turn Prosecco into a universally appreciated wine. In 1960, he created the first Prosecco Brut in his cellar in Valdobbiadene. At that time, it was common to bottle Prosecco as Dry, i.e. between 17 and 32 grams of residual sugar, or Extra Dry (12 to 17 grams). Giulano realised that a dry Prosecco was better suited as an aperitif or as an introduction to a meal. However, you need higher quality grapes for this. Today, Brut has become generally accepted, and more and more Prosecco is even bottled as Extra Brut, i.e. with minimal residual sugar. With Giuliano's daughters Maria Elena, Elvira, Luisa and Giuliana, the management of Bortolomiol is now firmly in female hands. With the Grande Cuvée del Fondatore, an Extra Brut from the steep slopes in San Pietro di Barbozza, they have created a sparkling memorial to their father.
Founded in 1938, Valdo is one of the oldest wineries in Valdobbiadene. In 1941, Sergio Bolla named the winery Valdo – for Valdobbiadene – and the first Prosecco Marca Oro left the cellar as early as 1958. Today, two generations later, it has become the Valdobbiadene Conegliano Prosecco Superiore DOCG Marca Oro, the Prosecco Superiore with the highest production figure. With the Cuvée di Boj and the Cuvée del Fondatore, Valdo also has two exceptional, top-class Proseccos in its range.
The quality ambassadors of Prosecco – both Superiore and DOC – also include the Mionetto brand. Founded by Francesco Mionetto in 1897, the company was taken over at the beginning of this millennium by the German Oetker-Henkell Group, who had already anticipated the great Prosecco boom. Today, the bottle with the characteristic orange banderole is distributed all over the world.
Double AA for Adami, A for Andreola – two more top wineries for Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG. The Adami family has been producing Prosecco for over 90 years. Franco Adami is a proven innovator who constantly strives for improvement. His Vigneto Giardino is one of the great site wines known as "Rive" in Prosecco jargon. This special Prosecco has been produced since 1933. Contrary to the general trend towards ever drier Prosecco, Adami still bottles the Vigneto Giardino as Dry with a residual sugar content of around 20 grams. Franco Adami believes that the fruity notes of the Giardino come out best this way.
Andreola's cellar is located in Farra di Soligo, halfway between Valdobbiadene and Conegliano. Stefano Pola is the second generation to run the winery, and in recent years he has made Andreola one of the leading wineries in the area. Andreola has no less than five different "Rive" in its range, each one better than the last. They all come from steep slopes in the hills between Valdobbiadene and Col San Martino. In Andreola's new reception room, Stefano Pola and his staff have also created an impressive relief of the growing area, where the different soil structures and slopes are impressively illustrated – a wonderful prelude or even a successful end to a tour through the hills of Prosecco Superiore.
As you can see, the world of Veneto Prosecco is immensely diverse and offers something for every sparkling wine taste. And it’s worth tasting!